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Amazon’s Twitch wants to stream some ‘choose your own adventure’ TV shows

Attendees walk past televisions showing live streams of Twitch Interactive's video service during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Attendees walk past televisions showing live streams of Twitch Interactive's video service during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

Amazon paid $1 billion for Twitch almost three years ago because it had a big audience of people who love to watch — and talk about — other people playing video games.

Now Twitch is thinking that same audience may want to watch and talk about something a little more polished, like traditional TV. Or at least stuff that looks like traditional TV, but is delivered over the internet.

Twitch wants to stream original programming, according to COO Kevin Lin, but with a catch: It wants to stream TV shows that are actually written and produced along the way with input from Twitch's viewers. A kind of "choose your own adventure" TV show.

Twitch lets users comment on videos as they happen, and Lin wants to use those comments to steer the programming. If Twitch's commenters clearly don't like a storyline from Episode One of a Twitch show, for example, the show's producers might change that storyline in later episodes as a result of the feedback.

"We'd want to identify really progressive studios that are willing to take a gamble and not release something in a big dump like most [premium] digital platforms these days," Lin explained in an interview with Recode. "[Someone who] will work with us and say, 'week to week, we're going to change this thing. We're going to somehow make it a little more interactive.'"

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"If we found the right partner, we'd do it," he added.

Amazon, Twitch's parent company, is perhaps the most logical partner. Amazon is spending a lot of money to both create original programming and also license programming from other popular sources, like the NFL, for its Prime subscription service. Testing this kind of "social TV" with Twitch would certainly make sense.

"We float these ideas by those guys all the time," Lin said, who added that Twitch has streamed a few pilots of Amazon original programming in the past. "But we need to be broader than that. They wouldn't want us to just work with them, and I think if we go super heavy in with just them it might send the wrong message out to the market."

Twitch is not the only company thinking about original TV-style content. Snapchat is in the market for short mobile-friendly shows, and Facebook is also hunting for original episodic content. Twitter, too, just announced a dozen new video partnerships, including some original (though live) recurring shows.

It's not even the only company thinking about choose-your-own-adventure style interactive TV — Netflix is considering something similar for children's programming, and HBO is reportedly working on a show with a choose-your-own-adventure theme.

But Lin thinks that Twitch's audience is not only used to commenting on videos as they watch them, but actually comes to expect that interactive experience.

"It's live, but it's interactive," Lin explained. "Which you're not going to get from premium television. You're not gong to get an actor from a show to respond to you in chat or change the show based on what you're saying. That's sort of the general expectation on Twitch, I would say."

Lin says that while Twitch is seriously interested in creating this version of social television, whether or not it gets to is still up in the air. At the earliest, he thinks a show like this is probably a year or two away.

"Will it happen? There's a high probability," he said. "In two years, I'd say if we haven't done anything yet, we probably decided not to."

By Kurt Wagner, Recode.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.