US online retail giant Amazon has bolstered its Internet video presence, whistling past Google to snatch up Twitch and its huge audience for live-streamed gaming.
The acquisition, announced Monday, is one of the largest in Amazon's history: $970 million in cash for the three-year-old Internet company.
The costliest takeover by Jeff Bezos's group was online shoe store Zappos, valued at $1.2 billion in 2009 but partly in shares.
"Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and chief executive.
"Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community."
The San Francisco-based Twitch Interactive streams games being played for non-playing viewers to watch, and hosts gaming events.
It allows viewers to chat with the players and others, lending it some of the qualities of social networking websites, and it sells advertising to generate income.
The company claims more than 55 million visitors a month to its website, via desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, and more than one million "broadcasters," gamers who stream video of their games over the Internet via Twitch.
It also says that visitors log long periods on the website, averaging 106 minutes a day per person, putting it in the leagues of streaming video like Netflix. In July viewers booked 15 billion minutes.
In a sign of its rising star in the sector, Take-Two Interactive, the company behind the wildly popular videogame Grand Theft Auto V, participated along with several investment firms in Twitch's last financing round in September.
Twitch also benefits from the integration of the latest versions of the world's two best-selling consoles, Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One, allowing gamers to easily play online.
Twitch's broadcasters included individual gamers, pro players, publishers, developers, media outlets, conventions and stadium-filling e-sports organizations, the Seattle-based Amazon said.
Amazon said it would acquire all of the outstanding shares of Twitch for about $970 million in cash. The deal, already approved by Twitch's shareholders, that is expected to close by the end of the year.
That would support Amazon in its fight to capture a large share of the streaming audience market. The online retailing giant is already pressing hard to add users of its streaming movie service, hoping to overtake Netflix.
- Gearing up Netflix battle -
Amazon's move on Twitch appeared to get the jump on search giant Google, which reportedly was also eyeing acquiring the gaming platform. Google did not comment Monday.
"It makes more sense for Amazon to buy it than for Google," Trip Chowdhry, analyst at Global Equities Research, told AFP, underscoring that Google already has a video streaming platform, YouTube.
Amazon's swoop is a "very smart acquisition," he said. It will bring more consumers, serve a niche community and "it's another service they can offer to their device users as an app."
Amazon already has a presence in video games with its development arm Amazon Game Studios, reinforced in early 2014 with its acquisition of the California studio Double Helix Game.
It also has integrated online games in its streaming media player Fire TV, launched earlier this year.
The deal comes as the company continues to pour money into investments ranging from streaming music, Kindle Unlimited all-you-can-read subscriptions and an online store for 3D printed items.
Despite impressive sales gains, Amazon reported a money-losing second quarter, with a net loss of $126 million widening from $7 million a year ago.
Amazon shares had climbed 0.7 percent to $334.02 Monday on media reports that the Twitter takeover was looming. Shares were up 0.2 percent in after-market trade following the announcement.