Amazon

It's the latest experiment in streaming classic TV shows through the online-gaming service.

By Mathew Ingram
May 11, 2017

Amazon’s Twitch streaming-video service usually deals in video-game related content, but it has also been experimenting for some time with streaming TV shows. On Thursday, Amazon announced its latest experiment: A Mr. Rogers Neighborhood marathon.

The broadcast or live-streaming of the landmark PBS show will start on May 15th at 12 p.m. Pacific Time, and will end on June 3. Twitch says it will stream 886 episodes of the children’s show, which it called “the most comprehensive collection of episodes available, including many that have only aired once and are unavailable elsewhere online.”

Amazon said the stream will begin with host and creator Fred Rogers’ testimony in 1969 before a Senate committee, in which he talked about the value of public television. Twitch will also run a fundraising campaign alongside the broadcast, asking viewers to donate.

“The Twitch community has not only embraced content which goes beyond gaming, they want more of it,” Bill Moorier, head of creative at Twitch, said in a statement. “We were drawn to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood because Fred Rogers was a positive voice in fostering inclusivity and diversity. While his show was geared toward children, his messages have universal appeal.”

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Most of the content on Twitch consists of gamers playing new video games while other users watch and/or interact with them online. Anyone can set up a channel and stream themselves.

One of Twitch’s first experiments in non-game content was when the service streamed all the episodes of The Joy of Painting, a cult TV show hosted by Bob Ross, also on PBS. The company discovered that there was a huge untapped interest in seeing re-runs of the show—almost six million people watched it during the marathon.

From there, Twitch moved on to other classic TV shows like Julia Child’s The French Chef, and earlier this year it broadcast a marathon of the ’80s show Power Rangers, streaming 831 episodes from the show’s 23 seasons over 17 days.

Twitch’s move into TV content mirrors its parent company’s ventures in a similar direction. Amazon has been aggressively bidding for the rights to movies and TV shows for its Prime Video service, which is now available in more than 200 countries.

The online retailer just recently acquired the rights to stream NFL Thursday Night Football games online for $50 million, rights that were previously held by Twitter. And Amazon also bought the rights to a car show hosted by the team behind Top Gear after they severed ties with the BBC.

From Amazon’s point of view, all of this video content helps drive demand for its Prime subscription service. The company has also started using the Twitch community as a test market for new shows, and has talked about experimenting with “choose your own adventure” shows in which viewers help determine the outcome.

Twitch has more than 100 million registered users, 10 million of whom are active every day, and it streams over 4 billion hours of video a year. It began as an offshoot of Justin.tv, a one-man video startup founded by Justin Kan. Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for almost $1 billion.

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