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Twitch to stream NWHL games

The three-season deal includes a rights fee paid by the streaming site

Al Saniuk

The NWHL has a new global streaming partner in Twitch. The video game streaming company owned by Amazon secured broadcasting rights for three seasons, starting this season.

In addition, Twitch is paying the NWHL a broadcast rights fee, a first for the league. The deals falls under the NWHLPA’s revenue split agreement, giving the players 50 percent of the revenue.

“With its accessible players and devoted fans, the NWHL is a perfect fit for Twitch in our global efforts to grow our traditional sports verticals,” said Jane Weedon, Head of New Verticals at Twitch in the league’s press release. “We are proud to partner with the league in its mission to build the professional women’s hockey league the athletes and fans deserve.”

The league has made streaming every single game a priority since the beginning. For the last two seasons, the league had streamed games on a combination of Twitter (with a Game of the Week) and YouTube showing the rest. According to numbers released at the end of last season, the average viewership was 70,000. Previously, almost every game was streamed on YouTube with NESN picking up a few Boston Pride games and a few on Facebook Live.

The move to Twitch is an interesting one.

The site is mostly known for live streaming video games and adjacent content, such as talk shows and produced videos about eSports teams. It is much more niche than Twitter or YouTube with what seems like a wildly different audience than the main demographic of the NWHL as well.

The league will also have to rebuild the community it had built in their YouTube channel’s chat as there was a strong group of fans who watched and chatted during the games.

There is a chat function in videos, something Twitch touts and many streamers use to interact by responding to their viewers. The site also has other engagement options such as fan voting and emotes, aspects that most likely fall into the league’s plan for “fan engagement opportunities.” The NFL used these features in the 11 games they streamed on the site in 2018. The NBA G League games on Twitch featured stat overlays, another option it would be interesting to see the league pursue.

Twitch has apps on a variety of devices, from phones to the PlayStation 4 to FireSticks. Amazon Prime members also get access to Twitch Prime as part of their Amazon membership.

How the games will be advertised on Twitch’s site will be a large part of using the platform to reach this new audience demographic. The homepage showcase the top channels by viewership, so gaining a spot there would do wonders.