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Why Are Soccer’s Stars Talking to Ibai Llanos?

That a 26-year-old streamer could attract names of that magnitude sparked criticism from more traditional news media outlets.

“Who is Ibai? I called Agüero for an interview, but Ibai beats me, and if Ibai beats me, I have to retire,” the Argentine announcer Gustavo López said. “They talk to the powerful, and disregard those of us who are paid in pesos.” Others derided Llanos as an “entertainer,” rather than a journalist.

To Llanos, though, that is kind of the point. “Maybe I am the sort of person they like,” he said of players. “A little bit different.” He does not attempt to pry into their personal lives. He does not try to ask them challenging questions about what, for them, is often simply their work. Instead, he tries to talk to them as informally as possible, while doing something — playing video games — that they enjoy.

“They come because they like it,” he said. “They don’t get paid. They come because they want to come.”

The players’ motivation is perhaps a little more calculating than that. “Twitch is the Generation Z platform,” said Julian Aquilina, a broadcasting specialist at the media research firm Enders Analysis. “It skews very young, and quite male. It is quite a different audience to traditional broadcasters.” Llanos offers a precious route into that audience: His interview with Dybala, for example, attracted more than 100,000 live, largely teenage viewers.

That soccer’s biggest stars find it a more appealing prospect than a more formal interview, though, is not in doubt. “Twitch has much more of a community vibe,” Aquilina said. “It’s much more interactive.” To at least one of Llanos’s guests, the allure was that talking to Llanos did not feel like an interview at all. There was no camera, no sound equipment, no call-and-response of questions, no defined structure. The players feel safe talking to someone who seems like a friend.



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