With the GP Explorer, Twitch has never been closer to television

The GP Explorer, broadcast on Twitch by Squeezie, broke all records this weekend. A million simultaneous spectators, a packed Bugatti circuit… This success owes nothing to chance, it even owes a lot to television.

Moments of stress, tears, tension and an explosive atmosphere on site… Whether you like cars or not, the job is a success. The GP Explorer, a car race organized between 22 influencers on October 8, put stars in the eyes of its millions of spectators. We even come to think once the curtain is down that this race still looked a lot like something we could have seen on television. This is clearly not trivial, as the means deployed and the success of the event approach the scale of a televised event.

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That’s a lot of people // Source: screenshot

1 million viewers on a Saturday at 5 p.m.

If this was indeed the first event of this magnitude organized by Squeezie on Twitch, nothing was left to chance. The videographer’s teams, in partnership with the circuit, called on a television control room. AMP Visual TV, which specializes in covering sports competitions on TV, was responsible for producing the event. Olivier Denis, the director of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was in charge and communicated with the two hundred track marshals so as not to miss anything.

It’s simple: there was not an angle that escaped the cameras placed all around the circuit, on moving cars and even inside the single-seaters driven by the drivers. We could see everything. And even if we missed something, replays and backstage shots covered each of the drivers’ actions and the reaction of their loved ones in the pits. Someone who does not necessarily know the influencers present on site can completely follow the race, just having the impression of following F1.

It is perhaps this accessibility and this perfect technique that partly explain the success of the Squeezie GP Explorer, and all these broken records. Minutes from the race, more than 500,000 people were watching the event on Twitch. Then 750,000 just a few minutes later, thus beating the record held by Zerator during ZEvent 2021. Then 900,000, very quickly afterwards. Then, finally, the million mark. One million viewers on Twitch on a Saturday at 5 p.m., for the first time on a French-speaking channel, the world records being held by English- or Spanish-speaking videographers. That’s more than some TV channels at high audience ranges. Unique viewers throughout the day number in the millions. It’s even more than TF1 at the same time the week before. A wild success for a ten-hour event, and a phenomenal success for Squeezie and his teams.

Squeezie can’t hold back his tears when he realizes the event is a success. // Source: screenshot

A very televised format, a little too passive

If we are used to watching Twitch lives, following the GP Explorer was a little different. The thousands of subscriptions and hundreds of thousands of messages scrolling through the chat made communication complicated, and even in slow mode, moderation and commenters struggled to escalate messages from the chat. After a while, we had to resolve that we couldn’t read messages from viewers, because the event was just too big. The realization of the GP Explorer was passive. We look at it, but we don’t interact. Except for a few polls.

The affiliation with television is also marked by the presence of many personalities from the milieu, from Jamel Debbouze to Julien Fébreau, official Formula 1 commentator on Canal+. Jean-Louis Moncet, sports journalist specializing in the discipline, was also entitled to his appearance in front of the camera, like some professional pilots present in the public.

Jamel Debbouze at the microphone on the commentator’s set // Source: screenshot

This is where the GP Explorer juggles between two visions: that of a live Twitch and that of a dantesque broadcast with colossal means. Everything was presented, narrated, produced and animated almost exactly like television, and not always with the closeness and spontaneity that characterizes traditional use of Twitch. We also see the limits at times, when “very Twitch” moments, sometimes a little embarrassing interviews or interventions punctuate the course of the day, or when the rare interactions with the chat come down to a race for audience record, telling viewers “to call their uncle, their aunt and their cousins ​​to watch the event on all possible media and blow up the million “. For the presenters, it was important to rally the spectators around a common goal, and to reinforce the feeling of belonging to “a historic event” by setting off in the race for records.

This is also what characterized this GP Explorer: the success of the format owes a lot to the heritage of television and the codes surrounding motorsport competitions. The real moments of spectacle, tension and staging that are at the heart of a day like this could perfectly have been broadcast on a television channel. The other moments, a little more hollow, sometimes sluggish, tried as best they could to bring interactivity into a format calibrated for television. It’s hard to want to wear both hats at the same time. In the end, Twitch is no longer the center of the format but becomes a broadcasting tool like any other, just like you would turn on your TV to watch F1.

Jamel Debbouze will acknowledge the seriousness of the event, telling host Doigby that streamers “are mad inventors, and they should have been there before”. The host’s response leaves little room for ambiguity: “Not at all Jamel, on the contrary it is we who thank you. We are the continuity of what you have done, you have changed the codes and shown that we can have fun while having fun. We just took what you did on TV to do it every day. We’re a bit like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, and you’re the giants. We just don’t have the same tools. »

The realization of the event, an impressive technical work // Source: screenshot

It’s a parallel that is interesting to draw at the end of a race like this. The GP Explorer also establishes the desire of the biggest influencers to touch events, such as ZeratoR and its many marathons, the arrival of videographers like Prime or McFly and Carlito in large concert halls, and even the organization of an event like the Popcorn Festival in the town of Montcuq. For the GP Explorer, this represents a cost never before seen on a platform like Twitch. In an interview with Interlude, Squeezie talks about a race that would have cost “between 2.5 and 3 million euros”. The simple training of a pilot by the FFSA for five days costs a little less than 90,000 euros, which represents one and a half million euros for all of the twenty-two participants. Added to this are the production costs, the payment of the teams, and a multitude of ancillary costs that it therefore seems normal, even downright necessary, to reimburse at least partially through the omnipresence of sponsors.

Throughout the day, we could hear videographers and visitors on site recall that they were living “something historic”, and that “it’s crazy to see that on Twitch”. Everyone was enthusiastic about being part of this moment, and silenced the few critics of Internet users who were surprised, for example, to see so many influencers having fun around a race on the circuit after a ZEvent defending the ecological cause. But in a flood of messages constantly flooding social networks, the positive quickly tends to overshadow the negative.

pop corn
Domingo at the Popcorn Festival this summer // Source: official photo

In any case, the GP Explorer gave us great moments and professional coverage of motorsport, it’s true. We had a blast following the race, whether for the cars or for the influencers present. But when we look at it from a little further, we also realize that it is the most televisual formats that rally the most people on the platform.

The television comparison might still have made sense five or ten years ago, when TV pundits still saw streamers as “people who play video games in their underwear,” but today, Twitch has nothing to envy to television anymore. The sums at stake at events like this can surpass those spent on making television formats, and the masses of viewers manage to equal, if not exceed, some TV shows. Today, as beautiful as the metaphor used by Doigby in response to Jamel, streamers are no longer dwarfs. They are all giants. The field of influence is no longer a niche medium, and many influencers today embody what television stars have represented for decades. And we are surely only at the beginning.

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