Messi’s Twitch interview shows how social media is conquering sport

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Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi
Aurelien Meunier - PSG/PSG via Getty Images

An app used mostly for watching video games just clinched the sports interview of the year in another blow to the traditional world of broadcasting.

Spanish influencer Ibai Llanos chatted with Lionel Messi on Amazon.com Inc.’s streaming platform Twitch after the world’s best-paid athlete signed with French soccer club Paris Saint Germain from Barcelona.

“What I want is to train and play,” a tired-looking Messi told Llanos on Wednesday. “So, I’m enjoying it and eager to take the step.”

More than 317 000 people watched the exclusive interview, the kind of prestigious content that would often be sold to the highest bidder for TV broadcast in different territories. Llanos was introduced to Messi by Sergio Aguero, a fellow Barcelona player and video-game enthusiast who is friendly with the social media celebrity.

Sports viewing is shifting steadily onto streaming platforms, and even overtaking traditional broadcast TV in the Asia Pacific region, according to GlobalWebIndex.

?Soccer clubs are eager to tap this new revenue source after they were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, especially as they need to win over younger audiences who enjoy video gaming just as much as traditional sports.

Llanos has drawn 7 million Twitch followers since he started out commenting on esports tournaments from his home. He’s brought a humorous commenting style to everything from toy-car races to chess games.

He’s now becoming a sports entrepreneur in his own right, collaborating with Barcelona’s Gerard Pique to broadcast the Copa America soccer competition in Spain. Llanos streamed a top-tier Spanish game for the first time in April under a deal between the Spanish league and TV rights owner Mediapro.

- With assistance from Thomas Gualtieri.

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