Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Amazon Turns Thousands of Twitch Streamers Into Product Pitchmen

  • E-commerce site will pay commissions for sales from site
  • Twitch attracts 10 million daily viewers to gamers, chefs

Amazon.com Inc. will pay commissions to gamers, artists, chefs and others on its Twitch Interactive video-streaming service for selling products to their fans through its retail site.

Think of it as video-game broadcasters hosting virtual Tupperware parties. Except they’re more likely to hawk headsets and consoles than salad spinners. At least for now.

Twitch announced the initiative Thursday ahead of the PAX West video game convention in Seattle as part of a broader introduction of new features meant to increase money-making opportunities and audience engagement on the site. Twitch attracts 10 million daily viewers who watch live broadcasts of people playing video games, cooking or even just sitting around eating. The website sees streamers as key to helping it win viewers from its much larger rival, Google’s YouTube. Converting streamers into sales people will help Amazon boost revenue while giving them a way to earn money and dedicate more time to cultivating viewers.

Twitch began expanding beyond video games in 2015 to include artists and chefs, so the product promotion possibilities from Twitch streamers are vast.

“These influencers are a massive market,” said Tobias Sherman, former global head of esports at the entertainment agency WME-IMG. “They are the same as sports figures in being able to convert eyeballs and fans into dollars and cents. Everyone plays games and it tethers everyone together.”

The Gear on Amazon feature will let Twitch streamers showcase their favorite products as a widget on their page. Viewers who click the widget are routed to Amazon, where they can buy the streamer’s favorite items. The streamer gets a commission of as much as 10 percent on each sale, Amazon said.

Amazon purchased Twitch for about $1 billion in 2014 as part of a push into online content that includes movies and music. It has been slowly introducing commerce features on the site, including selling video games, to convert Twitch into a commercial hub for the $100 billion gaming industry. The challenge is slowly integrating the sales features so Twitch doesn’t lose its reputation as a gathering spot.

The commissions will be available to 22,000 Twitch performers called partners, who generally appear a few times a week, attract hundreds of viewers for each broadcast, and get a share of subscription and ad revenue. Tens of thousands of “affiliates,” a new designation Twitch announced in April to help promising streamers reach partner status, also will be eligible.

Twitch is free to watch. It sells advertising and subscriptions. Subscribers pay $5 a month per channel to interact with their favorite streamers in chat rooms and access emoticons that are popular tools for communicating on the fast-moving site.

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