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Live streams of karate and niche sports are terrifying major sports leagues

Posted by | Endeavor, Entertainment, espn, esports, Facebook Live, Gaming, Hulu, Media, mlb, NBA, Netflix, nfl, Sports, streaming TV, Twitch, ufc, Video, YouTube Live | No Comments

Of the 100 most-watched live telecasts in the US in 2005, 14 were sporting events; in 2015, sporting events comprised 93 of the top 100 telecasts. That shift occurred because TV shows are shifting to online or on-demand viewing, and live broadcasts of the biggest sports are the main thing TV networks have left to draw in live audiences. But the need to keep those sports on TV and off streaming services is only accelerating the rate at which young people are tuning into other sports leagues instead.

The rapid adoption of subscription video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and of social live streams on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch is enabling massive growth by sports leagues that you won’t normally see on TV. In the streaming era, more sports – and new types of sports like esports – keep thriving while interest in traditional pro leagues like the NFL and MLB declines.

OTT is where the growth is

The central narrative in the global film/TV industry right now is the response of incumbent companies to the growing dominance of Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming (aka “OTT” or over-the-top) services. The incumbents are merging to consolidate ownership of must-have shows onto a smaller number of new OTT services that will each be stronger.

The majority of American households have a Netflix subscription (i.e. access to one of Netflix’s 56M US accounts), another 20M have a Hulu subscription, the number of OTT-only households has tripled in 5 years, and 50% of US internet users use a subscription OTT service at least weekly. Almost one-third (29%) of Americans say they watch more streaming TV than linear TV, and among those age 18-29 it’s 54% (with 29% having cut the cord on linear TV entirely). People, especially young people, want to watch shows on their own time and on any device, and they get more value from a few $8-40 per month subscription platforms than a $100+ per month cable bill.

Meanwhile, social live-streaming platforms that got their start enabling people to either vlog or watch video gaming are expanding to all sorts of live broadcasting: Twitch averaged 1 million viewers at any given point of day in January, and there were 3.5 billion broadcasts over Facebook Live in the first two years after it launched (with 2 billion users viewing at least one).

We’ve hit the pivot point where media is streaming-first. Netflix is now the leading studio in Hollywood, spending $13 billion this year on content. Linear TV viewing is declining: every major cable network (except NBC Sports) has declining viewership and aging viewers. Between 2007 and 2017, the median age of primetime viewers on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox went up 8-11 years and are all in the 50s or 60s.

Major pro sporting events are the last bastion of TV networks because the dominant brands are, for the most part, only available live on TV. Beyond those, the only content getting large audiences to tune in simultaneously are a couple Hollywood awards shows and premieres or finales of a couple hit shows (Big Bang Theory and NCIS).

The exclusive broadcast rights to those live sports events – particularly the NFL, NBA, MLB, and top NCAA basketball and football games – are the last defense for major broadcast networks. They are the reason for younger Americans to not cut the cord. ESPN makes $7.6 billion per year in carriage fees from cable companies paying for the right to carry the main ESPN channel (the other ESPN channels add another $1 billion); that number is increasing even as ESPN’s viewership is declining.

Disney (ESPN’s owner) and other leading broadcasters don’t want to let people watch major sporting events online instead (at least not easily or cheaply) because doing so would pull the rug out from under their traditional revenue stream and OTT revenue (subscription + ads) won’t make up for it quickly enough. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that TV networks are paying record sums for exclusive broadcast rights to top sports leagues out of fear that losing them to a rival could be a nail in their coffin.

This strategy is delaying, not stopping the shift in consumption habits. More and more young people are tuning out (or never tuning in) to the major pro sports on TV, and the median age of their audiences shows that: 64 for the PGA Tour, 58 for NASCAR, 57 for MLB, 52 for NCAA football and men’s basketball, and 50 for the NFL…and all are getting older. (Cable news networks, the other holdouts who are still doing well on live TV face the same situation: the average age of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN viewers is now 65, 65, and 61 respectively.)

The major pro sports staying on linear TV has expanded the market opening for new sports to fill the open space with young people who mainly consume content online. In fact, a growing marketplace of different sports leagues (including esports) developing their own fanbases is an inevitability of the shift to OTT video as it lowers the barrier to entry to near-zero and let’s geographically dispersed fans unify in one place.

1. Lower barrier to entry for distribution

Lawn bowling is no longer your grandfather’s sports league. Mint Images/Getty Images

Niche sports leagues – or frankly, even big sports leagues that just aren’t at the scale of professional football, baseball, basketball, and hockey – have always had a hard time getting coverage on television. But you can produce and distribute video for an online audience more cheaply than for a television audience.

In fact with Facebook Live and Twitch, you can stream live video for free, and you can share clips across every social channel to attract interest. To launch your own OTT service or partner with an existing one, you don’t need to start with a massive audience from the beginning and you don’t need millions of dollars from sponsors just to break even.

Having signed over 150 new deals this year alone for its 20+ sports verticals (which will stream 2,500 live events in 2018), Austin-based FloSports has established itself as the go-to OTT partner for sports leagues with an established, passionate following that aren’t massive enough to garner regular ESPN-level coverage.

From rugby, track & field, and wrestling to bowling, competitive marching band, and ballroom dance, millions of Americans have participated in these activities in their youth and through clubs as adults but rarely see them on television. In fact, the rare instances when such sports are on TV – like their national championships – the league is usually paying large sums (potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars) for that airtime rather than getting paid by the broadcasters.

FloSports gives a home to the superfans of its partner leagues, with full coverage of the sport and commentary meant for real fans. It produces events in the manner best fit to highlight the action and turns superfans – who generally pay a subscription – into evangelists who recruit friends. There are numerous sports that have millions of participants yet no active, high-quality event coverage; those are underserved markets.

By tapping into this, FloSports properties (like FloWrestling, FloTrack, etc.) have gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers and created a surge of interest in teams like Oklahoma State’s wrestling team, which saw an 144% increase in live stream viewing and 68% growth in event attendance after joining FloWrestling (leading to them to set an all-time attendance record in the university’s basketball arena of 14,059 people). In the first half of 2018, FloSports’ various Instagram accounts collectively received 307M video views, more than the collective accounts of Fox Sports or of all NFL teams (and NFL Network).

2. Going global right away.

Johanne Defay of France at a World Surf League event. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The top pro sports leagues have geographically concentrated fan-bases that fit the geographic restrictions of TV broadcasters, which end at a country’s border. Online streaming empowers sports that have large fan bases who aren’t geographically concentrated to aggregate in the digital sphere with enough eyeballs (and paying subscriptions) to drive engagement with the sport’s content through the roof.

Since being acquired in 2015 and renamed World Surf League, the governing body of professional surfing has developed a large global following – with 6.5M Facebook fans and 2.9M Instagram followers – through the launch of live streams and on-demand video on its website and mobile app, plus partnering with third-parties like Bleacher Report’s OTT service B/R Live. Only 20-25% of WSL’s viewers are in the US but since its competitions are streamed direct-to-consumer online, they were able to reach surfers around the world right away. After seeing WSL’s Facebook Live streams garner over 14M viewers in 2017, Facebook paid up to become the exclusive live-stream provider for WSL competitions for two years, beginning this past March.

3. Immediate data on audience engagement.

As with all offline-to-online shifts, OTT video streaming captures dramatically more data on audience demographics and engagement than television does, and it does it in real-time. This makes it easier for emerging sports leagues to partner with advertisers and show immediate ROI on their sponsorships, plus it informs their understanding of how to produce their particular type of sporting event for maximum audience engagement.

Karate Combat is a year-old league that builds off the existing base of karate participants and fans around the world (numbering in the tens of millions) with a new competition format specifically intended for OTT. The league allows full-contact fighting and sets the match in a pit (rather than a traditional fighting ring) for better camera angles. It also replaces the traditional focus on having a big in-person audience (which is expensive) and instead sets the fights in exotic locations (like the fight this coming Thursday night on top of the World Trade Center).

Like many emerging sports leagues, Karate Combat is vertically integrated: the league organizing the competitions is also the one producing and streaming the event coverage over its website, mobile apps, and social channels. This not only means it captures the content-related revenue from subscribers, advertisers, and numerous OTT distribution partners, but it sees every data point about fans’ viewing behavior and their interaction with various dashboards (like biometrics on each fighter) so they can optimize both online and offline aspects of the production.

4. Online means interactive

Jujitsu fighting is now an OTT service. South_agency/Getty Images

Online viewing creates the opportunity for functionality you can’t achieve with linear TV: interactive displays overlayed on or next to live video. Viewers can pull up and click through real-time stats, change camera views, or switch overlays (think the the yellow first-down line in NFL broadcasts or coloring around a hockey puck to help you track it on the ice). Ultimately, a more interactive experience means a more social and more entertaining experience (and the sort of deep engagement advertisers value too).

FloSports’ ju-jitsu live streams (FloGrappling) give subscribers multiple live cameras each covering simultaneous matches on different mats so they can click between them. This is a more personalized experience than passively watching one broadcast on TV and it gets that subscriber actively engaged, with their behavior providing valuable data points for FloSports and their deeper interaction likely more compelling to event sponsors.

The display might also highlight live comments from friends or friends-of-friends in order to draw viewers into a more social experience. Discussion of a specific live stream with others watching it has been a central feature for Twitch and Facebook Live and enables the league or team streaming the event to directly engage with fans around the world.

An exception to the OTT-first strategy may be in sports that are entirely new and have zero existing base of participants or fans. Karate, surfing, and video-gaming all have millions of passionate participants around the world, going back decades. A new league like the 3-year-old Drone Racing League (DRL), which has raised $21M in venture capital to develop the sport of competitive drone racing, has to artificially stimulate the development of a fanbase if it doesn’t want to wait years for grassroots competitions to create a critical mass of fans even for a niche OTT service. It’s unsurprising then that DRL has focused on striking TV deals with ESPN, Sky Sports, ProSiebenSat.1, and others to thrust it in front of large audiences from the start, like a new game show hoping its format will entice enough people to take interest.

Power is in the hands of the league owners

Ari Emanuel, chief executive officer of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The best position to be in right now is the owner of a sports league that’s rapidly growing in popularity. The competition for audience by both traditional media companies and tech platforms leaves a long list of distribution partners eager for must-have, exclusive content – especially content like sports events that fans want to want live together – and willing to pay up.

Moreover, vertical integration to control your fans’ content viewing experience and own your relationship with them has never been easier. There are direct subscriptions, advertisers, event sponsors, event tickets, a portfolio of possible OTT distribution deals, and merchandising. The potential revenue streams a league can develop are only more numerous when you add in launching a fantasy sports league – like World Surf League has done – and the recent nationwide legalization of sports betting in the US.

Endeavor, the parent company of Hollywood’s powerful WME-IMG talent agency, seems to have recognized this and is an early mover in the space. It bought two sports leagues that have relied on TV deals and event attendance revenue – UFC for $4B and the smaller but rapidly growing Professional Bull Riders for $100M – and, since they each own their content, launched direct-to-consumer subscription platforms (UFC Fight Pass and PBR Ridepass) for super-fans and cord-cutters. (Endeavor also paid $250M to acquire Neulion, the technology company whose infrastructure powers the OTT services of the UFC, PBR, World Surf League, and dozens of others.)

There’s opportunity for new streaming platforms focused on being the media partner for these emerging sports leagues. Inevitably, the opportunity for bundling will consolidate many of the niche subscriptions onto a small number of leading sports OTT platforms, and that’s a powerful market position for those platforms.

What is unclear is if they can defend themselves as the incumbent media and tech companies come around to this phenomenon and commit billions toward capturing the market. The leading sports broadcasting companies all have OTT offerings and want to make them as compelling to potential subscribers as possible even if they exclude content from the biggest pro sports. A larger company that can afford to spend huge sums on exclusive sports streaming rights (like Disney with ESPN/ABC, Comcast with NBC/Sky Sports, CBS with CBS Sports Network, or Discovery with Eurosport) might opt to buy a company like FloSports as part of their deep dive into the space or they might just aim to outbid them when a league’s contract comes up for renewal.

The hope for an independent OTT platform devoted to emerging sports leagues is they get big enough, fast enough that they can afford to keep winning the rights to emerging leagues as those leagues grow and offers from competitors bid prices up. These dedicated OTT services will likely have to secure long-term – think ten years – streaming rights deals or acquire control of some popular new sports leagues outright to hold their own.

Like online distribution triggered an explosion of digital publishing brands and social influencers for every imaginable niche, the rise of high-quality live streaming and subscription OTT services will allow a lot more sports leagues to build an audience and revenue base substantial enough to thrive. There’s more variety for consumers and resources than ever for those with a rapidly growing league to attract fans worldwide.

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Twitch updates security for its TwitchCon event following the Jacksonville esports shooting

Posted by | esports, Gaming, TC, Twitch | No Comments

Twitch is today announcing changes to its security procedures for its TwitchCon event taking place in San Jose, California on October 26-28. The update follows news of the tragic shooting at an esports event in Jacksonville, Florida last month where three people died, including the shooter, and 11 were injured. Twitch said it would review its procedures as a result, and would soon have more information about what it’s doing to keep attendees safe.

Today, the company shared those plans.

Our highest priority at TwitchCon is attendee safety and security. We want to assure you that we are adding additional security measures on top of past event measures. We will have more detailed information on TwitchCon security in the coming days so stay tuned!

— TwitchCon 2018 (@TwitchCon) September 12, 2018

According to Twitch, it’s working with San Jose’s local law enforcement, convention staff and additional security services on the event.

The conference will include bag searches and screenings at designated entrance points, and attendees will be limited to carrying just one bag.

The bag can be no larger than 12” x 15” x 6”, the company says.

Backpacks, luggage, large bags and bulky clothing will not be allowed. In addition, backpacks acquired at the show — even those that are Twitch-branded — will not be eligible for re-entry. There will be an on-site bag check available, but the company suggests that larger bags be left at home as space will be limited.

It says small fanny packs or clear bags will help attendees move through the security checkpoints faster.

Meanwhile, exhibitors will only be able to hand-carry their products and display materials in oversized bags and rollers before 8 AM on show days — that way there won’t be a way for people to bring in large bags when the event is underway.

Press will also have to wear their press badges, and crews that need to carry their large camera equipment will need to be approved.

Of course, the event has a no weapons policy as well, and anyone in violation will be removed without refund.

Badges must be worn at all times, and an ID or passport needs to be on hand, as well.

At first glance, the updated procedures don’t seem remarkably different from Twitch’s earlier policies.

The company’s security plan before Jacksonville had also included bag searches, walk-through or hand-held scanners, the use of uniformed guards, ID checks and the wearing of badges.

The biggest on-record change appears to be the backpack ban.

However, we understand the reference to Twitch’s closer work with law enforcement services and the “additional security services” is a reference to other changes that may not have been fully detailed. (We’d guess this is likely because Twitch doesn’t want to provide too much information to anyone trying to workaround its security procedures.)

The annual TwitchCon event brings together the Twitch community to play games, watch live esports, participate in hackathons and cosplay contests, attend sessions and hear from the company about what’s next for the live game-streaming service.

Last fall, for example, Twitch unveiled a new set of tools at TwitchCon that would allow creators to make money from their online channels.

However, the events in Jacksonville have had many of TwitchCon’s regular attendees concerned about event safety.

After all, the video game competition, taking place at the GLHF Game Bar in Jacksonville, Florida, had been live-streamed on Twitch when the shooting happened. Would a copycat try to get into Twitch’s conference?, some have wondered.

According to reports, the Florida shooter had been upset about losing two games of Madden earlier in the tournament, even refusing to shake hands with the winner after one game. Despite a history of mental illness, the shooter had been able to legally acquire his weapons. It wasn’t clear how he got them into the Jacksonville bar.

Sadly, mass shootings in the U.S. have now taken place at schools, movie theaters, churches, concerts, workplaces — even at YouTube —  and elsewhere. But they had not yet before occurred at an esports event.

The tragic event brought attention on the esports industry as a whole, which still sits somewhere outside of mainstream attention, despite Twitch having more than 2 million broadcasters and 15 million viewers who tune in daily to watch.

We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Jacksonville today. Twitch and all its staff send our deepest sympathies to the victims, their loved ones, and everyone in our community who’s grieving today.

— Twitch (@Twitch) August 26, 2018

Shortly after the tragedy, Twitch said it would make changes.

“Security at TwitchCon is our top priority and is something we take very seriously at all our events,” the company told TechCrunch in August. “We regularly review and iterate on our policies and approach in order to provide a safe and positive experience for staff, attendees, and exhibitors. In the wake of yesterday’s tragedy we will be re-reviewing our plans and updating them accordingly,” a spokesperson had said at the time.

The updated plans for TwitchCon are detailed on Twitch’s blog and its FAQ.

Image credit: Twitch

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Twitch will livestream Pokémon TV series and movies, while viewers ‘catch’ badges

Posted by | Gaming, Media, pokemon, streaming, television, tv, Twitch | No Comments

Twitch has teamed up with The Pokémon Company to allow viewers to binge watch the Pokémon: The Series TV show and related movies on its site, and “catch” Pokémon badges along the way. While the former is one of Twitch’s many retro binge watch fests – it’s previously streamed old shows like Bob Ross, Julia Child, Mister Rogers, SNL, and most recently, Knight Rider – the interactive feature it’s debuting is something new.

According to the company, Twitch will launch its own Pokémon extension to accompany the broadcast. This overlay, called “Twitch Presents: Pokémon Badge Collector,” will encourage viewers to collect Pokémon badges that appear on the screen for points, which places them on a leaderboard.

This is only the second time Twitch has added an interactive element like this to one of its viewing events, and its addition could see users watching for longer periods of time, as a result. The first was a “watch and win” extension during a Doctor Who broadcast, but it was different as it focused on collecting contest entries.

Twitch also notes this will be the longest viewing event it’s ever held.

The binge will see 16 movies and 19 TV seasons with 932 episodes streamed across Twitch’s network, starting on August 27, 2018, and spanning until 2019. This will kick off with the first season, Pokémon: Indigo League at 10 AM PDT on the 27ths for audiences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. The content will air on TwitchPresents and on its companion channels in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

“The Twitch community has a passion for Pokémon based on the warm embrace the series received when we celebrated the brand’s 20th anniversary, as well as the cultural milestone that was set when over a hundred thousand Twitch members played Pokémon together,” said Jane Weedon, Director of Business Development at Twitch, in a statement about the launch.

The viewing event comes at a time when reports claim Twitch is going after a wider audience than just gamers. The company has been wooing creatives like vloggers, cooks, artists, and others to come to its site, instead of only broadcasting on YouTube. And it’s been airing non-esports content through marathon events like this new one with Pokémon. According to Bloomberg, TV show livestreams are one of the two fastest-growing genres on the site, the other being “IRL” (in real life) content.

The Pokémon viewing event, in particular, is aimed at a younger audience who may not have the level of nostalgia for the classic TV shows Twitch previously aired. Instead, Twitch says the livestream is appropriate for fans 13 and up – which means it could attract those whose first real exposure to Pokémon was the mobile game that went viral following its launch in 2016.

The dates and times of the Pokémon series and movies will be on Twitch Presents. The binge fest won’t include newer series, like the Sun & Moon or Sun & Moon Ultra Adventures, however.

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Twitch Prime ditches ad-free viewing as one of its perks

Posted by | Amazon, eCommerce, Gaming, Twitch, twitch prime | No Comments

Twitch Prime, the perks program for Amazon Prime members offering free loot, games and other benefits, is ditching one of its best features: ad-free viewing. According to an email sent out to Amazon Prime members today, ad-free viewing will no longer be included as a part of Twitch Prime for new members, beginning on September 14. However, members with existing annual subscriptions will be able to continue to enjoy ad-free viewing until their subscription comes up for renewal.

Those with monthly subscriptions will have access to ad-free viewing until October 15.

Twitch’s email offered a simple explanation as to why ad-free viewing was no longer going to be a part of the benefit program, saying that: “advertising is an important source of support for the creators who make Twitch possible.”

The company also stressed that this change would “strengthen and expand that advertising opportunity for creators so they can get more support from their viewers for doing what they love.”

In an accompanying blog post, Twitch further explained that the change will allow Twitch to remain a place where “anyone can enjoy one-of-a-kind interactive entertainment” and where creators can “build communities around the things they love and make money doing it.”

In other words, creators need to make more money, and so does Twitch — especially if it ever wants to challenge YouTube.

As you may expect, Twitch user reaction has been swift and negative. In the comments of Twitch’s post, users are threatening to ditch Twitch Prime altogether saying that its other features — like in-game loot, monthly channel subscriptions, exclusive badges and the like — were not the main reasons they were interested in this perks program.

Twitch Prime was launched in September 2016 as a benefit for Amazon Prime members — one of the now many perks that accompany a Prime subscription, in addition to Amazon’s Prime two-day shipping. Amazon had acquired Twitch in 2014, and this was the first big move it made to integrate the two properties beyond airing some TV pilots on the service.

Since Twitch Prime’s launch, Amazon has been adding features to the program — most recently, free games every month, for example. Twitch says this year it’s given away more than $1,000 worth of games and loot to members, and promises “more and better free games” and loot in the future.

Although ad-free viewing across Twitch won’t be included in Twitch Prime in the future, the company did note that there will still be a way to turn off ads.

If Twitch users have an Amazon Prime membership (meaning they’ll still have Twitch Prime, too), they can use their monthly subscription token on a channel that offers ad-free viewing to subscribers.

In addition, users can opt for Twitch Turbo, a separate monthly subscription program that offers ad-free viewing across all of Twitch, plus other features like additional emoticons, chat badges, priority support and more.

Users, of course, are outraged that a benefit that used to come free with a Prime subscription will now cost an additional $8.99 per month.

Twitch’s decision to remove ad-free viewing could be a part of its bigger plan to woo creators to its service.

The company has been in the news as of late for having YouTube-esque ambitions. According to a report from Bloomberg, the company wants to turn the game-streaming site into a broader video service and has been pursuing live-streaming deals with dozens of popular creators and media companies that have large YouTube fan bases. The company has been offering minimum guarantees as high as a few million dollars a year, plus a share of future advertising sales and subscription revenues, the report said.

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It’s Friday so relax and watch a hard drive defrag forever on Twitch

Posted by | Gadgets, Twitch, WTF | No Comments

It’s been a while since I defragged — years, probably, because these days for a number of reasons computers don’t really need to. But perhaps it is we who need to defrag. And what better way to defrag your brain after a long week than by watching the strangely satisfying defragmentation process taking place on a simulated DOS machine, complete with fan and HDD noise?

That’s what you can do with this Twitch stream, which has defrag.exe running 24/7 for your enjoyment.

I didn’t realize how much I missed the sights and sounds of this particular process. I’ve always found ASCII visuals soothing, and there was something satisfying about watching all those little blocks get moved around to form a uniform whole. What were they doing down there on the lower right hand side of the hard drive anyway? That’s what I’d like to know.

Afterwards I’d launch a state of the art game like Quake 2 just to convince myself it was loading faster.

There’s also that nice purring noise that a hard drive would make (and which is recreated here). At least, I thought of it as purring. For the drive, it’s probably like being waterboarded. But I did always enjoy having the program running while keeping everything else quiet, perhaps as I was going to bed, so I could listen to its little clicks and whirrs. Sometimes it would hit a particularly snarled sector and really go to town, grinding like crazy. That’s how you knew it was working.

The typo is, no doubt, deliberate.

The whole thing is simulated, of course. There isn’t really just an endless pile of hard drives waiting to be defragged on decades-old hardware for our enjoyment (except in my box of old computer things). But the simulation is wonderfully complete, although if you think about it you probably never used DOS on a 16:9 monitor, and probably not at 1080p. It’s okay. We can sacrifice authenticity so we don’t have to windowbox it.

The defragging will never stop at TwitchDefrags, and that’s comforting to me. It means I don’t have to build a 98SE rig and spend forever copying things around so I have a nicely fragmented volume. Honestly they should include this sound on those little white noise machines. For me this is definitely better than whale noises.

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Gaming star Ninja sparks outrage by refusing to stream with women

Posted by | fortnite, Gaming, Ninja, streaming, TC, Twitch | No Comments

At a Samsung event last week, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins explained why he doesn’t stream with female gamers.

“If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever,” said Ninja, who is married, in an interview with Polygon.

As you might expect, this stance was met with plenty of backlash.

dont it get it why so many ppl defending ninja over not playing females? Imagine going to your work and saying i dont wanna work with females..

— Badman Hendrik (@Handigeharrie23) August 13, 2018

Ninja then doubled down on his stance, clarifying that it comes down to an issue of online harassment.

Please read. pic.twitter.com/egfplBQFYD

— Ninja (@Ninja) August 13, 2018

First and foremost, everyone has the prerogative to make decisions for their own personal life. If Ninja believes that the online harassment suffered (by just about any internet celebrity) is too much for him and his family to deal with, and that playing with women will exacerbate that harassment, then that is his choice.

The problem is that it goes against his usual stance of taking responsibility for his position as a role model.

As Kotaku aptly points out, Ninja has made real moves toward being a role model for his 10 million+ Twitch followers, from cutting down on cursing on stream to giving to charity and other important causes. In fact, Ninja sees his commitment to charities and his role as an activist as one of the most amazing things he’s done in his life.

And he’s well aware of his influence. He often “raids” less popular Twitch streamers’ channels, including some women, to give them exposure.

So why be a role model who doesn’t include women?

Yes, being a celebrity comes with an inordinate amount of online harassment. And that sucks. But it also comes with a level of responsibility. Not everyone has the platform to make an actual difference in this world. And when our Vice President, and other influencers, have decided that being alone in the same room (virtual or otherwise) with women opens them up to too much vulnerability, they make it that much harder for women to achieve the same influence.

Remember, gaming is about as extreme a culture as a woman can find herself in. Not only are women excluded in this male-dominated community, but they’re often sexually and verbally harassed, which isn’t helped much by the fact that games themselves portray women as props moreso than protagonists.

Ninja is the most influential gamer of our generation, the likes of which have never been seen before. The success of female streamers and gamers surely isn’t reliant on him. But he could very well change the hearts and minds of a generation of young men who may stop thinking of women as less, and might start thinking of them as equals.

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Twitch is closing its Communities

Posted by | Amazon, communities, games, Gaming, streaming, streaming service, Twitch | No Comments

Say goodbye to Twitch’s Communities. The game-streaming service says it’s soon killing off this still relatively new addition to its site in favor of implementing a tagging system instead. With the changes, users will be able to filter streams by tags within a directory or across different games on the Browse page, in order to better find the sort of streams they want to watch.

The closure of Communities and addition of tags is being planned for mid-September, says Twitch.

Twitch launched Communities just last year, with the goal of better catering to users’ unique interests. For example, different types of gaming, like retro, or different activities, like speedrunning, could then have their own community. There are also communities centered around titles like Fortnite Battle Royale, PUBG, League of Legends and others, as well as those focused on creative endeavors like music, drawing, cooking, cosplay and more.

But the system has become less helpful as Twitch itself, the number of streamers and the number of communities grew. Today, there’s a lot of overlap between different Communities or between Communities and games, says Twitch.

This is attributable, in part, to the open nature of Communities — there are many with similar names, and no good way to tell what makes them different from one another at first glance.

“Communities were one solution for giving viewers information to help them decide what to watch, but viewers weren’t able to see that information while browsing within a directory they were interested in,” the company noted in an announcement.

It also found that Communities weren’t driving viewers to watch streams — in fact less than 3 percent of Twitch viewership was from users who found streams through the Communities feature. That points to a pretty broad failure of Communities serving as a discovery feature.

Twitch now hopes that the implementation of tags will make things better on that front.

The company says it will add tags to the site in mid-September, and these will be used to identify a stream across Twitch’s directory pages, the homepage, search, channel pages and everywhere else. The main Directory pages and the Browse page will also be able to be filtered by these tags, some of which will be auto-generated.

Twitch says it will automatically add tags like game genres, and some in-game features it can auto-detect — another project it now has in the works. But most of the tags will be selected by the streamer — not user-generated, to be clear, but selected.

Streamers will be able to suggest new tags, however.

The tags will appear alongside the video thumbnail, stream title and the game or category being streamed.

The change is one that speaks to the limitations of portal-like interfaces being used to access a large amount of information — that is, browsing to a particular section to find things you like, then scrolling through those results takes too much time. It isn’t that helpful in the long run. Tagging lets users filter information, paring down, in this case, a large number of Twitch streams to find just those you like.

That being said, not all Twitch users are happy about the changes. But some are happy about it and others are cautiously optimistic about tagging.

So in case you haven’t heard the news, @Twitch is removing Communities because “they werent being used” which means that The Cookout Community page that we’ve built up over this past year wont exist a month from now. We will have to come up with new ways to find each other. pic.twitter.com/95fKSgTwB0

— The Villain. (@DennyVonDoom) August 9, 2018

It is with a heavy heart i must share the sad news,That Twitch Communities will be removed,say goodbye to Communities we are being introduced to Tags. Unsure on how this will work out on twitch. I only have but one thing to say, Everything We Do Will Remain The Same #CESupport pic.twitter.com/OjkGXjoYgP

— Letseuq [CE] (@Letseuqion) August 10, 2018

We feel communities gave streamers a sense of self identity that was much needed

It is worrisome to see tags implemented instead of more freeform communties as it removes agency from the streamers in how they choose to define their stream and themselves.

What are your thoughts?

— TwitchKittens (@TwitchKittens) August 9, 2018

It’s a shame that @Twitch are removing Communities, but the implementation of tags is a really cool idea, and I look forward to the possibility of seeing a #StreamersConnected tag.

— Lt Zonda [SC] (@LTZONDA) August 9, 2018

I’m happy with it to be honest, 3 communities is extremely limiting anyway especially when the majority of people have more than 3. I dunno how anyone was supposed to find community pages easily, think more traffic came from external sources and game listings than community pages

— OK Sauce (@oksaucedesu) August 10, 2018

Honesty, I don’t see how this’ll hurt anyone. You can still make communities outside of Twitch. Then you can just use a tag instead. Same idea really. What is a community? A bunch of people using the same tag? I’m still not even part of a community.

— Vanilla Bizcotti (@VanBiztheRapper) August 10, 2018

The interesting thing about @Twitch rolling out this tags feature is that they’re gonna eventually include them on mobile….which they never did for Communities. So how can you accurately measure the usefulness of the Communities feature if not everybody had access to it?

— Jae. (@JaeTheTerrible) August 10, 2018

Everyone is getting up in arms about Twitch removing communities. Believe it or not, communities can be used to push away gamers just as much as bring them together.

— Vanilla Bizcotti (@VanBiztheRapper) August 10, 2018

Twitch says tagging will first launch on the web, and the company will then listen to feedback about missing tags before launching the feature on mobile.

The mid-September launch date could change, but is the target for now.

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Twitch launches a ‘how-to’ site for streamers, Twitch Creator Camp

Posted by | games, Gaming, live streaming, streaming, Twitch | No Comments

Twitch wants more people to stream, so it’s going to begin teaching them how. The video game streaming site today announced the launch of Twitch Creator Camp, a new educational resource that helps newcomers learn the basics of streaming, as well as how to build up a channel, connect with fans, and earn rewards.

The launch of the how-to site comes about a week after an article by The Verge detailed the long tail of Twitch streamers, with a focus on those who spend years broadcasting to no one in the hopes of one day gaining a following.

The article raised the question that, in the age of live streaming, where every major social company – including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – today offers easy streaming tools, there many not be enough of an audience for all the content creators are producing.

Twitch, apparently, believes the issue is one that can be addressed – at least in part – by training new streamers.

On Twitch Creator Camp, the company is bringing in successful creators to help educate the would-be streamers on a variety of often-discussed topics. These insights will be shared as articles, videos and live streams.

At launch, the site includes content focused on a variety of streaming best practices, including the basics of setting up a channel, building a brand, leveraging their stats, using Twitch features like emotes, badges and extensions, and more.

Streamers will also learn how to better network with others and engage their audience, as well as how to optimize their channel for monetization through subscriptions, merchandise, ads and sponsorships.

In addition, creators will begin live streaming on Creator Camp, starting on July 31 at 2 PM PT.

At this time, a number of Twitch Partners will answer general questions about streaming. A calendar of upcoming streams is also available on Twitch’s site, as the company aims to host weekly sessions going forward.

“Hosting a good stream isn’t easy. We’ve heard from many of our creators that they spend a lot of time searching for advice on effective tools, features, and techniques in order to make their broadcasts more engaging and to grow their communities,” said Jessica Messinger, Creator Growth Marketing Manager at Twitch, in a statement.

“Twitch Creator Camp makes things simpler by centralizing the most relevant information to a creator’s success, all of which is provided by Twitch and many of our successful Partners. We want to help our creators succeed and this is just the beginning,” she added.

Twitch says the partners it’s working with for Creator Camp are being compensated for their efforts. Currently, those participating include: Jericho, gassymexican, teawrex, JGhosty, pokket, firedragon, venalis, tominationtime, sypherpk, xmiramira, iamBrandon, DeejayKnight, Lobosjr, sacriel, PmsProxy, itmeJP, kaypealol, and Pokimane.

Twitch today has over 2.2 million broadcasters serving up streams on its site every month, which are consumed by 15 million daily active viewers who watch an average of 95 minutes of content daily. However, much of the on-site activity – just like on YouTube and elsewhere – is dominated by top creators.

Meanwhile, many of Twitch’s smaller streamers may already understand the basics and tips that Twitch’s Creator Camp is offering. For them, the issue is not one of following all the steps being laid out, but rather one of discovery.

Twitch has been working to address its discovery issues, too, having last month detailed a number of projects it’s working on across this front which are in various phases of development.

“We don’t believe Twitch should be a popularity contest” the company said at the time.

Twitch Creator Camp is open as of today, with the live streams starting at the end of the month.

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Twitch streamers can now let viewers react with GIFs

Posted by | game streaming, Gaming, GIFs, giphy, streaming service, Twitch | No Comments

Giphy is coming to Twitch . For the first time, Giphy is bringing its library of animated GIFs to the Amazon-owned game streaming service. The company today is launching a Giphy extension for Twitch streamers that will allow viewers to react in real-time using GIFs during a broadcast. The idea is that GIFs could make streams more engaging and entertaining, which would, in turn, attract retain viewers for longer periods of time.

Twitch extensions were first introduced last year, but only recently did Twitch add support for running multiple extensions at once. That could encourage more developers to try out the Giphy extension, without having to give up their other favorite overlays.

To use the new extension, the streamer will first configure which part of the screen area will be used to display the GIFs viewers post. Once the extension is activated, viewers will be able to access it during a broadcast via a Giphy icon and the search terms they enter into the message bar.

Twitch is not the first game streaming site to experiment with GIF reactions. The newer site Caffeine had this as a feature, too, but pulled it before launch because they found it could be used for harassment. Twitch and Giphy are hoping to not make the sane mistake by curating the catalog of GIFs that can be shared.

According to Twitch, Giphy’s content is moderated to remove those GIFs that are “overtly offense” to any race, gender, ethnicity or community. It’s also limiting GIFs to those with a PG rating and below, which will prohibit users from posting GIFs with violence, sexual references, and other lewd terms, it says.

“Extensions are a great framework designed to make channels on Twitch more interactive so creators can better engage and retain their fans,” said Amir Shevat, Twitch VP of Developer Experience, in a statement. “With Giphy tapping into their extensive library of animated GIFs for their new Extension, it adds a fun and compelling new element to the social video experience that is sure to resonate with the current meme generation.”

Extensions are one of Twitch’s differentiating features in the game streaming market. Thanks to Twitch’s scale, there are now thousands of these add-ons and overlays in development, and over 250 which have gone live since the feature’s launch. Dozens of these, including Giphy’s, also work alongside others, allowing streamers to better customize their broadcasts and channels.

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Facebook launches Brand Collabs search engine for sponsoring creators

Posted by | Advertising Tech, Apps, Crowdfunding, eCommerce, Entertainment, Facebook, Facebook ads, Facebook Creator, Facebook Subscriptions, Mobile, Patreon, patronage, payments, Social, TC, Twitch, YouTube | No Comments

Facebook wants to help connect brands to creators so they can work out sponsored content and product placement deals, even if it won’t be taking a cut. Confirming our scoop from May, Facebook today launched its Brand Collabs Manager. It’s a search engine that brands can use to browse different web celebrities based on the demographics of their audience and portfolios of their past sponsored content.

Creators hoping to score sponsorship deals will be able to compile a portfolio connected to their Facebook Page that shows off how they can seamlessly work brands into their content. Brands will also be able to find them based on the top countries where they’re popular, and audience characteristics like interests, gender, education, relationship status, life events or home ownership.

Facebook also made a wide range of other creator monetization announcements today:

  • Facebook’s Creator app that launched on iOS in November rolled out globally on Android today (this link should be active soon once the app populates across Google Play). The Creator app lets content makers add intros and outros to Live broadcasts, cross-post content to Twitter and Instagram, see a unified inbox of their Facebook and Instagram comments plus Messenger chats, and more ways to connect with fans.

  • Ad Breaks, or mid-video commercials, are rolling out to more U.S. creators, starting with those that make longer and original content with loyal fans. Creators keep 55 percent of the ad revenue from the ads.
  • Patreon-Style Subscriptions are rolling out to more creators, letting them charge fans $4.99 per month for access to exclusive behind the scenes content plus a badge that highlights that they’re a patron. Facebook also offers microtransaction tipping of video creators through its new virtual currency called Stars.

  • Top Fan Badges that highlight a creator’s most engaged fans will now roll out more broadly after a strong initial reaction to tests in March.
  • Rights Manager, which lets content owners upload their videos so Facebook can fingerprint them and block others from uploading them, is now available for creators not just publishers.

Facebook also made a big announcement today about the launch of interactive video features and its first set of gameshows built with them. Creators can add quizzes, polls, gamification and more to their videos so users can play along instead of passively viewing. Facebook’s Watch hub for original content is also expanding to a wider range of show formats and creators.

Why Facebook wants sponsored content

Facebook needs the hottest new content from creators if it wants to prevent users’ attention from slipping to YouTube, Netflix, Twitch and elsewhere. But to keep creators loyal, it has to make sure they’re earning money off its platform. The problem is, injecting Ad Breaks that don’t scare off viewers can be difficult, especially on shorter videos.

But Vine proved that six seconds can be enough to convey a subtle marketing message. A startup called Niche rose to arrange deals between creators and brands who wanted a musician to make a song out of the windows and doors of their new Honda car, or a comedian to make a joke referencing Coca-Cola. Twitter eventually acquired Niche for a reported $50 million so it could earn money off Vine without having to insert traditional ads. [Disclosure: My cousin Darren Lachtman was a co-founder of Niche.]

Vine naturally attracted content makers in a way that Facebook has had some trouble with. YouTube’s sizable ad revenue shares, Patreon’s subscriptions and Twitch’s fan tipping are pulling creators away from Facebook.

So rather than immediately try to monetize this sponsored content, Facebook is launching the Brand Collabs Manager to prove to creators that it can get them paid indirectly. Facebook already offered a way for creators to tag their content with disclosure tags about brands they were working with. But now it’s going out of its way to facilitate the deals. Fan subscriptions and tipping come from the same motive: letting creators monetize through their audience rather than the platform itself.

Spinning up these initiatives to be more than third-rate knockoffs of Niche, YouTube, Patreon and Twitch will take some work. But hey, it’s cheaper for Facebook than paying these viral stars out of pocket.

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