- Amazon and its game-streaming platform Twitch added enhanced data and shopping features to their live video streams of Fox's "Thursday Night Football," which premiered last night. Amazon's Fire TV lets viewers browse and buy officially licensed merchandise including hats, T-shirts and other gear from the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams, per Variety.
- Amazon's Prime Video let subscribers stream the games via connected devices like Fire TV and smartphones. They can also choose the option to watch the broadcast with commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, or with three other audio choices that included the first female duo to call NFL games, Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm, a Spanish-language version or a feed from a U.K. announcer team. Fire TV's X-Ray feature let viewers see real-time data about the game and the e-commerce storefront.
- Twitch live-streamed the games for free on its website and let viewers chat using customized NFL emoji that the service calls "emotes." Twitch personality GoldGlove provided game commentary for the first time that appeared as an overlay on the stream, Geekwire reported. The next "Thursday Night Football" stream will feature the Indianapolis Colts visiting the New England Patriots on Oct. 4.
Amazon and Twitch's streams of "Thursday Night Football" are a big step toward interactive TV by integrating viewer interaction and e-commerce with a live broadcast. It's unlikely that Amazon will reveal how much merchandise it managed to sell during its live stream, given its history of being tight-lipped about sales figures for shopping events like its annual Prime Day, but it's clear that the company is leveraging its unique ability to provide all the back-end support for e-commerce, including order-taking, fulfillment and delivery.
By offering a social element to its stream, Twitch is capitalizing on a trend from fans who use social media to share their reactions with friends and followers. It's a feature companies like Facebook and Twitter have sought to cultivate in their own live sporting event streams. Twitch earlier this year also tested "Extensions," which provides team and player data in during NBA G League games. Twitch will add the "TNF Extension" to "Thursday Night Football" games later this season, per Variety.
Twitch's new features appear to be helping the company grow. The game-streaming platform has an average of 15 million daily active users, a number that rivals top cable networks. Viewership has jumped 51% to 45 billion minutes a month in 2018 from a year earlier, and the number of individual broadcasters has jumped 61% to 3.2 million, according to Twitch data. By broadcasting NFL games on Twitch, Amazon can potentially bring a larger portion of TV viewers into its e-commerce ecosystem, which it has tried to do with its new line of Alexa-enabled Echo devices.