Video streaming service Twitch announced Tuesday a two-year deal with Blizzard Entertainment to become the exclusive third-party home for many of the Irvine game-maker's e-sports events.
Blizzard Entertainment can continue to stream video game competitions on its own services, including MLG.TV and Blizzard.com. But the global exclusivity deals a blow to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ESPN and other apps competing for streaming rights to the growing form of entertainment.
Blizzard Entertainment parent Activision Blizzard Inc. was among early adopters of Facebook's live-video feature, and it's long used YouTube to spread its content. The gaming company may continue to use those services for some unspecified competitions.
Financial terms of the Twitch deal were not disclosed. Blizzard Entertainment, whose games include "StarCraft II," "Overwatch" and "World of Warcraft," didn't respond to requests to comment.
The agreement marks the second major video rights deal in the budding e-sports industry, following BAMTech guaranteeing in December $300 million over seven years to distribute "League of Legends" tournaments for creator Riot Games.
Twitch Chief Operating Officer Kevin Lin said a multiyear arrangement would finally give the Amazon.com subsidiary breathing room to develop features tailored to e-sports spectators. It also shows how Amazon has begun to find ways to derive value from its near $1-billion purchase of Twitch in 2014.
"We could build something largely advertising- and licensing-driven or we can try to do some new things [to make money] in e-sports," Lin said. "This gives us more flexibility and time to think through this."
A key part of the experimentation will be tying into Amazon Prime, the online retailer's $99-a-year subscription package for music, movies and discounted shipping. Twitch users with Prime receive their own perks, including free game-related merchandise.
As part of the agreement with Blizzard Entertainment, Twitch plans to offer clear guidance to subscribers about what game goods they'll get over the next two years. First up is a virtual item that normally costs about $25 to get for the the shooting game "Overwatch."
"Being part of Prime allows us to be flexible," Lin said. "There are some cool integrated features for Prime members that are coming."