The way we watch sports is changing. While the large majority of people are still tuning into events like Thursday Night Football through traditional TV broadcasts, there are an increasing number of alternatives to take in sporting events. It’s no secret that more people are moving away from cable subscriptions and are instead choosing streaming services. While many of these same services are beginning to get into the market of offering live sports on their own platforms, most simply offer packages that allow you to stream cable TV channels.
One streaming site that has been doing it differently though has been Twitch. The Amazon-owned streaming platform is best known for being where most people go to watch video games, but over the last few years, Twitch has been expanding its offerings. One of its most popular categories is “Just Chatting” where streamers won’t actually play a video game, but instead will sit there on stream and have a conversation with their viewers. This catch-all category has allowed many streamers to try and break out from their normal streams and try something new. Now there are streamers who cook, put together PCs, or host podcasts on the platform.
It only made sense that live sports would follow shortly after. Anyone with the Twitch app has likely noticed on Thursdays that they usually get a Twitch notification advertising that evening’s Thursday Night Football game. Twitch is getting in the live sports market, but it’s doing it the way that only Twitch knows how, through personality-driven content. One of those personalities is NFL analyst and personality Kimmi Chex and when she describes what she does to get ready for a broadcast on Twitch it sounds no different than a TV broadcast. At least at first.
“I am a total connoisseur of all NFL.” Chex told Uproxx. “I work here as an in-studio host and analyst at the NFL Network and the NFL media group here in LA. So I eat breathe sleep and NFL games and NFL football. So the prep for me is really just understanding the team’s understanding the matchups and kind of the main storylines as well because as you probably know, if you just look at the last week or two weeks of NFL news every single day, their constant changes and constant things that we have to be monitoring and understanding those impacts and how that plays into the game.”
I am endlessly grateful. pic.twitter.com/DZCdqHdyhV
— Kimmi (@kimmichex) December 1, 2021
Where everything starts to change for Chex and the Twitch viewer is when the broadcast starts and the game kicks off. A traditional TV broadcast features a play-by-play commentator, a color analyst, and a sideline reporter, presenting the game in an incredibly familiar format, but one that doesn’t offer much in the way of viewer interaction. That’s where Chex and the team over at Twitch look to differentiate themselves . While they still watch the game, talk about it, and discuss it, they’re doing so less from the perspective of providing viewers that traditional experience and instead of one they can interact with. During broadcasts, Chex is reading and interacting with the chat as these games happen, getting direct feedback from viewers. A luxury that TV broadcasts do not have.
“The Twitch format completely throws out and turns everything on its head.” Chex said. “Now you have this instantaneous way to see what your viewers are thinking and questions they’re asking and understand on the fly how you can pivot your way of telling information and covering the game so that the people watching you live can understand it better. So, I think the favorite thing for me this season and working with Twitch, and having our broadcast on there is having that continual conversation not only with my cohosts but with our fans.”
For some people, this new format of watching games can sound a little weird. Why would anyone ever want to be on Twitch watching games with a total stranger? However, for Chex and these viewers, it doesn’t feel like interacting with strangers. It feels more like talking with the same group of people you see every week at your local sports bar. As Chex has been doing the broadcast she’s begun recognizing usernames and that familiarity is exciting for both her and the viewers of the broadcast. It creates a sense of community by bringing a bunch of people together to watch football as fans.
“It’s been so fun to see our fans tune in each and every week.” Chex said. “Like, we know, we have our regular and it’s so fun to see their usernames and their Twitch handles pop up every single week and be like, hey, what’s up our friends back! Because you feel like you start to kind of build a bond with them and it really, you know, it solidifies, we’re doing something right and we’re giving them what they want because they want to come back each and every week/”
That community is what makes this entire broadcasting experience different from the average television viewing experience because the way everyone watches something like the NFL is unique. Some people prefer to watch something like Thursday Night Football from an analytical perspective, or maybe they’re interested in the gambling lines, or in Chex case, it’s a community that wants someone to hang out with and talk about football. People gravitate towards her broadcasts because they see she’s a fan just like them and is going to talk about the game as a fan.
“A few weeks ago the Packers were facing the Cardinals and it’s a huge NFC showdown, and it’s a crazy game. We’re fans of the game, right? We make predictions every single week of which team we think is going to win or not. And that game literally came down to the last, like, 14 seconds and Kyler Murray threw a pick in the end zone and we lost our minds, and having that instantaneous reaction with each other was invaluable and it was so fun. And I think it was fun for the viewers as well because as much as we want to be buttoned up broadcasters, like, we’re people too and having all that instantaneous reaction together as like this fun little niche Twitch community. It is it’s beyond anything I could have ever imagined.”
Again, this may sound strange to people who are used to the traditional way we watch sports, but consider how many different ways there are to watch sports now. Not only through avenues like Twitch and streaming services, but even our own TV broadcasts. The semi-weekly Monday Night Football broadcast featuring Peyton and Eli Manning has been wildly successful. Every year around the College Football Playoff ESPN will frequently roll out a handful of different broadcasts for people to watch, like the coaches film room. CBS/Nickelodeon had a special playoff broadcast last year and plan to expand those offerings. Sports leagues are recognizing that there are more people out there you can reach if you’re willing to present sports broadcasts in different ways. Chex and her Twitch broadcasts are just another way for them to do that.
“If you want to go to a sports betting niche, you can find a feed and a stream that can do that.” Chex said. “If you want to have the X’s and O’s and the scouts feed, and really breaking down the plays, you can find that. If you want to sit and watch a casual, fun game, then you can come hang out with us on Thursdays on NFL Next Live and you can watch the game without feeling like you’re being spoken down to, or confusing, or that it’s too much too kind of handle. If you’re a more casual fan, or if you’re a really avid NFL fan, you have the option to get in there and ask a very, very specific question to NFL legends and have your question answered live. So I absolutely think it’s the next wave of sports content and sports broadcasting but probably just content in general. Right? We are constant consumers of the things we want. We have phones. We have laptops where, you know, at the click of a button, at tap of our fingers, we can find exactly what we want and our content has to reflect that, and Twitch and Amazon are perfecting that model.”