CBS Interactive Games is adding the virtual equivalent of a live sports feed to its GameSpot site. Twitch.tv, which streams competitive multiplayer games around the world, will provide live streams of hugely popular games like DOTA 2, World of Warcraft and Call of Duty to Gamespot's audience base, with CBS selling ads around the new content.
Even without the boost from the GameSpot audience, Twitch has already found sponsorships with brands like energy drink company MiO. That probably has something to do with Twitch's rapid growth—the company's unique user count has doubled in size since last July.
Combined data from comScore puts the uniques from the newly expanded CBSi Games portfolio around the 25 million per-month mark, but it remains to be seen whether that boost in numbers will translate into greater ad sales for the repurposed Twitch.tv content.
It's not the only partnership CBS is announcing today. The company will also team up with two pro gamer guilds: Major League Gaming and the North American Star League.
Jaci Hays is GameSpot's VP of sales, games and entertainment, and she said that in warming up the ad community for this pitch, one of the biggest draws has been length of tune, or the time viewers spend watching the games, before switching over to something else. "Average tune-in is like 23-30 minutes, because it's live," she said.
It's a good environment for a traditional ad load, and because an online battle is pretty much long-form content, Hays trusts viewers won't go anywhere. Hays said one of the reasons online viewing has become so important is "because the technology is there now." Watching-only "spectator modes" have been around since the early days of the Quake franchise, but they've gotten more sophisticated as average bandwidths have increased. And, believe it or not, if you can sort out what's going on down on the battlefield, watching someone else play StarCraft has its own unique appeal.
For Fouad ElNaggar, CBS Interactive's SVP of strategy and corporate development, it's the personalities that are making the difference. The exec said he's seen a boom in nontraditional sports like, say, the World Series of Poker. Pro gamers, according to ElNaggar, "are getting close to their poker moment."
"You have these guys who are considered The Tiger Woods of Poker, and we've got that happening in games now," he said. "You've got teams that have real grudges against each other."
So will advertisers respond to the bigger unique viewers with greater ad spending? ElNaggar hopes the demographic for the games will put the Twitch content over the top. "There aren't that many places you can find 18- 34-year-old males in a lean-back environment," he said. "[The advertisers] are trying to find these young guys who still watch 10 movies a year, who still buy DVDs."