NWHL Signs Live Streaming Deal With Twitch

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NWHL Twitch streaming deal
Photo Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The National Women’s Hockey League has signed a three-year exclusive live-streaming partnership with Twitch.

The deal will bring all of the NWHL’s games and programming to the platform, which will be available for free globally on any device that can access Twitch. The NWHL has also launched a Twitch account.

The deal will start alongside the NWHL’s 2019-2020 season, which is set to begin on October 5. The league said that not only will games appear on Twitch, but so will content aiming to deepen the bond between its players and its fans. Other fan engagement tools could be rolled out including the co-streaming of games, fan voting and other utilizations of Twitch chat.

But most notably for the NWHL is the fact that this new deal marks its first-ever broadcast deal in which it will receive a rights fee.

“We’re stoked to see this partnership with Twitch come to life. The options are endless. Twitch is a true partner that sees the value of investing in professional women’s hockey,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan. “Our fanbase has been growing exponentially since we launched, and the data we’ve collected over four seasons of streaming every single game has us excited to plug into Twitch’s platform.”

“We know we’re primed for even more growth. Without question, this collaboration with Twitch will expand our fanbase, foster an even deeper community, and enhance the viewing experience,” she said.

The NWHL has streamed every game since the league was founded in 2015, primarily on YouTube. The league has paid for its production costs. Its games have also appeared on other digital platforms in the past, ranging from Cheddar to Facebook Live to Twitter. The NWHL has not had a linear television partner at the league level to date.

Earlier this year, the NWHL announced that it would be splitting all revenue from its corporate and broadcast partnerships in half with NWHL players, providing them with additional income beyond their existing salaries. This new deal with Twitch will fall into that category. The NWHL declined to comment on the rights fee it’s receiving from Twitch.

The decision to split those commercial revenues with its players came as a bit of good news for the league after what had been a challenging few months following the conclusion of its 2018-2019 season in March.

On March 31, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the only other professional women’s hockey league in North America aside from the NWHL, made the decision to discontinue operations due to financial issues.

In May, more than 200 women’s hockey players from both leagues made a joint statement saying that they would not participate in any professional women’s hockey league in the 2019-2020 season and instead would be seeking out a more sustainable league. Included in that group are some of the most high-profile women’s hockey players such as Kendall Coyne-Schofield and Hilary Knight.

That group announced this week that it would be hosting a series of barnstorming games and events across North America this fall.

The NWHL and Rylan have committed to moving forward with its efforts. This summer, the league has signed two new partners in Chipwich and nutrition brand VEDA, while also renewing its deal with NYU Langone Health.

READ MORE: NWHL Sinks Teeth Into New Deal With Chipwich

With the deal, the NWHL will become the latest league to have its games on the Amazon-owned streaming platform.

Primarily known for the streaming of video games, Twitch said that it has more than 15 million active daily users and its free mobile app has been downloaded more than 56 million times.

In August, the NBA signed a deal with Twitch to stream USA Basketball games globally on the platform through 2020. Twitch also streams G League games. MLS and WWE have also had content on the platform in the last year, in addition to the esports efforts of professional sports leagues, such as the NBA’s NBA2K League, the NHL’s Gaming World Championship, and MLS’s eMLS initiative.

Twitch most notably streams the NFL’s Thursday Night Football, which is also on Amazon Prime.

READ MORE: Broadcast Innovation Key To NBA, Twitch Partnership

In a statement, NWHL Players’ Association Executive Director Anya Battaglino said “This is a huge step for women’s hockey. Getting visibility on professional women’s hockey has been extremely important. The more eyes on the women’s game, the more fans we convert. Women’s hockey is at a monumental time right now, and the more we can showcase this product, the stronger our foundation becomes.”