Q&A: Twitch’s Chief Revenue Officer on Ad Tech’s Biggest Pain Points—and Opportunities

'We get frustrated by inefficient and non-performant programmatic resulting in lost opportunities'

Jacobs will speak at Adweek's NexTech event in New York on July 24.
Twitch

Way back in 2012, when I was a media reporter elsewhere and Walker Jacobs was the evp of digital ad sales for Turner, he told me the media giant was looking “to take the other road: minimizing ad tech for ad tech’s sake, simplifying our processes.” A year later, in other interviews, he said Turner doesn’t “participate in any real-time bidding or private exchanges.”

Time can change our perspective, and seven years after leaving Turner, Jacobs is the chief revenue officer of Twitch—the live-streaming platform that began as Justin.tv—and has become a master of ad tech.

I’ll be talking with Jacobs on stage at Adweek’s NexTech event in New York on July 24. Before that, here’s a peek into some of the trends we’ll be discussing.

Adweek: What’s your biggest pain point when it comes to ad tech?
Walker Jacobs: The ad product and engineering teams at Twitch are some of the most talented I have ever worked with, and they are quick to adapt. We’re lucky in that we don’t have many persistent pain points when it comes to ad tech. That said, like most companies, we get frustrated by inefficient and non-performant programmatic resulting in lost opportunities, [as well as] inaccurate forecasting.

Where do you see opportunity?
Twitch is live, shared, and interactive broadcasting that has over a million people tuning in at any given moment of the day. We are particularly efficient at reaching Gen Z and millennials. Our biggest opportunity is helping marketers reach these audiences with video commercials, which is especially interesting as the more traditional channels become less and less impactful.

Beyond that, we want to demystify esports. Twitch has 85% market share of live esports broadcasting (outside of Mainland China) and there is tremendous marketplace demand to understand best practices in how to get involved. Right now, it is very crowded and confusing for new entrants. Because we work with all of the esports leagues, tournament operators and teams, we are uniquely positioned to advise clients and offer easy to execute sponsorships and media packages.

What’s a trend that marketers need to approach differently?
Marketers should let go of the notion that gamers are a niche audience. The majority of young people today identify as gamers or play video games regularly—in fact, 66% of people over 13 spend more than an hour each day playing video games. Many of these young people, including huge numbers of millennials and Generation Z, are cord-cutters and cord-nevers, often referred to as the “unreachable.” Twitch offers compelling incremental reach.

"Marketers should let go of the notion that gamers are a niche audience. The majority of young people today identify as gamers or play video games regularly."

What do the next 12 months look like for ad tech?
We want to use ad tech towards a better advertising product beyond the operational efficiencies. Given the trend of people moving away from traditional television, we’re really leaning into what makes Twitch unique: the creative and interactive possibilities. Enabling ads that offer direct interaction will help advertisers continue to provide engaging, native experiences on Twitch that give both marketers and our broadcasting partners better opportunities to tell brand messages.

Where’s Amazon on Twitch? (I see AmazonGames, AmazonMusic, AmazonAlexa.) Will we ever see a QVC-like stream?
That’s a fun idea. Amazon and Twitch are guided by the same principles of customer-centricity, invention and long term thinking. You will hear in the future about some of our plans in this area. We currently have the Amazon Blacksmith extension on Twitch actually allows Partners to link to their own Amazon storefronts during their live streams where audience members can click through to make purchases.

You’re the CRO of Twitch. Who’s your favorite streamer?
That’s a tough one. I tend to bounce around and enjoy the discovery aspect of finding new streamers. With over 3 million streamer channels live every month, there is so much to find if you go looking. I also enjoy the interactivity in several of the smaller streams, especially music and performing arts.

I also think the phenomenon of Ninja is incredible, and I like seeing his broadcasts as they transcend gaming and pop culture. He has become so mainstream, so that’s fun for me as the CRO. And I respect DrLupo. He is one of the best examples of using one’s Twitch reputation for good. Last year alone, he raised $1.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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