Amazon to buy live-stream gaming site Twitch for $970M

In its largest cash deal ever, the online retail giant will acquire the popular site known for broadcasting live video game play.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is taking the gaming market more seriously with the largest acquisition in the e-commerce company's history. James Martin/CNET

Amazon, in its efforts to increase its video-streaming offerings, plans to buy live-streaming video game site Twitch for about $970 million in cash, the two companies announced Monday.

The deal, the largest cash buy in the e-tailer's history, helps Amazon expand its video-streaming service, as it pits its fledgling Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming service against streaming giant Netflix. CEO Jeff Bezos has made it clear that it is committed to growing its video offerings, including the development of original content.

Twitch is a video platform that streams content geared toward gamers, including live gaming footage, commentary, and online shows. The company said Monday it counts more than 1.1 million unique broadcasters per month, up from 600,000 in November last year. Their videos are reaching more than 55 million gamers, up from 45 million before. On average, Twitch said, users watch 106 minutes per day.

"Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon," Bezos said in a statement. "Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month -- from The International, to breaking the world record for Mario, to gaming conferences like E3."

Gaming is not an area where Amazon has made a lot of progress. Although it launched its Amazon Game Studios two years ago, it has sparse offerings. But, the retailer clearly wants a piece of the video game market. When it unveiled its media-streaming device Fire TV in April, it also rolled out an optional controller for video game play.

Twitch, launched in June 2011 by Justin.tv co-founders Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, made headlines this year for the live streams of a crowdsourced game of Pokemon and goldfish playing classic video games. Videos on the site can also be streamed on Microsoft Xbox and PlayStation 4 game consoles. In the last year, one of Twitch's biggest catalysts for growth was its inclusion in the two devices.

"Amazon and Twitch optimize for our customers first and are both believers in the future of gaming," Shear said in a statement. "Being part of Amazon will let us do even more for our community. We will be able to create tools and services faster than we could have independently. This change will mean great things for our community, and will let us bring Twitch to even more people around the world."

Google was reportedly in talks to buy the streaming site earlier this year. The acquisition would have expanded the scope of YouTube's video ambitions. Neither company commented on the reports at the time.

The deal ultimately fell through, an unnamed source told Recode, and Amazon stepped in to pursue the streaming site. Details of Amazon's purchase were first reported by The Information and the Wall Street Journal.

Staff writer Rich Nieva and senior staff writer Ian Sherr contributed to this report.

Updated, 1:12 p.m. PT: Added confirmation, details of the deal, and statements from the companies.

 

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