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Twitch Bids Adieu to CBSi Ad Sales

ESports hub sets up internal sales team led by CRO Jonathan Simpson-Bint

Twitch.tv, one of the principal players in the growing eSports genre (i.e. watching people play video games), will stop selling its ad inventory through CBS Interactive's sales team and will instead build its own all-new advertising team headed by chief revenue officer Jonathan Simpson-Bint. 

Simpson-Bint told Adweek that the decision to part ways with CBS was driven by the gameplay streaming portal's rapid growth over the past year—uniques have increased from 15 million to more than 30 million since last June, with engagement numbers up as well. Internal data from Twitch says the average view time on the site has gone up from 60 minutes a day to more than 90 minutes. Senior members of the team will include svp Kym Nelson (formerly of IGN), vp Andy Swanson, and sales manager Christina Grushkin.

For the uninitiated, eSports viewing is the fine art of watching folks play video games—among the more popular titles are League of Legends, Starcraft II, and Minecraft—which Simpson-Bint said has become "a totally acceptable form of entertainment" very rapidly. The decision to move away from the CBS ad sales team wasn't driven by any tensions between the companies, he said. "We always knew that we would want to have our own sales team at some point for all the reasons everyone cites; no one can market and sell a product as well as employees—people who are in the weeds." And given the rapid growth of the genre, and Twitch along with it, "we're just doing it faster than we'd originally planned."

The three legs of Twitch's revenue model are advertising (far and away the largest chunk), subscription services, and premium accounts that run $8.99 a month. The company is privately held and remains tight-lipped with respect to its revenue figures, but Twitch has received less than $25 million in investment over the last five years—not bad for the world of young tech companies, which frequently lean on angel investors and corporate stakeholders for cash while they struggle to find their feet.

Twitch's 80 employees preside over a huge chunk of the growing eSports market. As such, it's been able to ink sponsorship deals, integrations featuring its sportscasters, and an important deal with Electronic Arts to provide novice gamers with the ability to create their own streams to Twitch without much tinkering (EA's PC games come packaged with Origin, which allows users to start streaming their sessions to Twitch's website with the click of a button). Game publishers remain one of the company's largest advertiser groups.

Last year's agreement between CBS-owned Gamespot and Twitch will remain in place.

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