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NBC to Launch Twitch Channel for Olympic Games

Derek Walborn

As Amazon’s Twitch platform looks to expand into streaming content outside of its gaming bread and butter, the service is partnering with NBC to provide live, interactive content surrounding this summer’s Tokyo Games.

The NBC Olympics Twitch channel will host daily content directly from Tokyo and will feature talent pooled from both Twitch itself as well as NBC’s Olympics hosts. Programming will be headlined by a daily live studio show and popular Twitch streamers will provide commentary to supplement NBC’s primetime block. This strategy is meant to encourage young viewers to tune in to traditional television, a medium that they have largely left behind in favor of social media and on-demand content.

The collaboration will see original programming suited to Twitch’s audience including interviews, highlights, themed gaming competitions, and more.

“The way that people consume traditional sporting events is changing,” Michael Aragon, Chief Content Officer at Twitch, said in a statement. “They no longer want to simply spectate; they want to be as close to the action and athletes as possible.… The Olympics present an opportunity for a global fan base to embrace this new world of live and interactive sports.”

Twitch will also provide unique, Olympics-themed virtual experiences in advance of the big event including a virtual pre-Opening Ceremony and a closing celebration.

Gary Zenkel, President of NBC Sports’ Olympics division is enthusiastic about the relationship. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Twitch on innovative ways to tell the stories of Team USA’s athletes in Tokyo and build Olympic excitement with their audience,” he said. “The Olympic Games are perfectly aligned with Twitch consumers, who are passionate about great competition, personality and storytelling.”

Zenkel’s excitement obscures NBC's anxiety with regard to the fate of the Games in Tokyo and how much they are counting on the event's programming to help prop up their new Peacock streaming platform.

Peacock has already suffered a star-crossed launch due to the delay in the Games, debuting with almost no original content. The service also upset sports fans by fumbling its recently hyped broadcasts.

The platform also doesn't offer 4K resolution, which is a setback for fans who hoped to watch this summer’s athletes in ultra high-definition.

As Japan struggles with a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, there have been rumblings about how to proceed with a Summer Olympics that has already been postponed an entire year.

Japanese leaders are coming to grips with the reality that the pandemic hasn’t slowed enough to guarantee safety for athletes and fans. “If it seems impossible (to host the Olympics) anymore, then we have to stop it, decisively,” said Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party.

NBC appears to be ready to flood the zone with Summer Games content, as we learned yesterday that they will be developing Olympic content specifically for Twitter as well.

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