- Amazon's livestreaming platform Twitch is expanding its sports programming with a three-year deal to show National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) games. Twitch will stream 24 games for free during the 2020 regular season, which begins on April 18, per an announcement.
- As part of the deal, Twitch has the exclusive rights to livestream NWSL games outside the U.S. The Amazon-owned platform will show all 108 regular-season games, the playoffs and championship to viewers worldwide. Twitch also will collaborate with the NWSL on additional league- and player-related content and original programming opportunities.
- CBS Sports also bought rights to present NWSL games on CBS, CBS Sports Network and CBS All Access, the media giant's video-on-demand and livestreaming service. CBS will broadcast or stream 87 NWSL matches during this year's regular season.
Twitch's agreement to livestream NWSL games is notable — more than the deal with CBS — for expanding the platform's sports programming to appeal to a broader audience.
Twitch pioneered the idea of livestreaming people playing videogames, but faces greater competition from YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming and Microsoft Mixer, which have expanded their audiences and signed exclusive deals with streamers who first grew a significant following on Twitch. To diversify outside the audience for livestreamed gaming, Twitch needs a broader range of live events such as sports programming.
The livestreaming agreement with the NWSL is Twitch's latest deal with a major sports league to show their games. Twitch last year livestreamed "Thursday Night Football" for 10 weeks of the National Football League's regular season, and saw 45% audience growth from a year earlier. Twitch also streams a limited number of NBA G League and National Women’s Hockey League games.
The expanded programming may help Twitch to reach a more diverse audience, including female consumers who make most purchase decisions in the U.S. About 80% of Twitch's audience is male, although 55% are in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic that's desirable for advertisers, per Mediakix data.
Twitch is forecast to boost its regular viewership 14% to 37.5 million this year and reach about 16% of the U.S. audience for digital video, according to researcher eMarketer. The forecast indicated that Twitch's audience is growing to rival the viewership of traditional media channels like broadcast TV.