When Amazon bought Twitch, a popular video-game streaming platform last August, the website had a healthy 45 million monthly visitors. Fast-forward less than a year and the site has more than twice that, averaging 100 million viewers as of the end of December.
What’s more astounding is that Twitch’s average user watches 106 minutes of video on the site per day even though none of the players are exactly household names.
This dedicated community of viewers fuels Twitch’s success, according to Twitch star Sean Plott.
“Twitch is fundamentally a community site [for the gaming community] and a technology platform,” Plott told Business Insider. “It’s not successful because it has a huge show or 10 huge personalities.”
On the surface, Twitch may look simply like a video-streaming site. At its core, though, Twitch serves as a social network for gamers, according to Plott.
While watching and playing the games is a central function of Twitch, the action on the screen is not limited to the games. As Twitch’s PR director told Business Insider, users joke around with each other, talk about their lives, and form friendships. Twitch helps users socialize.
Twitch enables fans of a particular game to form a community on their own without the interference of a third party, Plott points out, citing that ability as the site’s main strength.
“There are streamers that only have 40 or 50 followers, but those followers always watch when that person streams,” Plott said. “It’s so easy for someone to hit a button, be live, and create a community.”
Since its launch, Twitch has focused on video games and the gaming community. It’s easy to see however, how the site could transfer that “social video” approach to other communities and interests like traditional sports or even politics.
Indeed, the site has begun to push into a new sector: music. In 2014, the site added a “Music” category for musicians and has started to livestream concerts on the site. Twitch has created partnerships with record labels like Monstercat, Fool’s Gold, Skrillex-founded OWSLA, and Steve Aoki’s Dim Mak, which have made their music available for free on the platform and host their own Twitch channels.
It’s easy to imagine music aficionados using Twitch as a space to talk about their favourite bands, watch exclusive performances live, or even talk to the performers themselves during a livestream.
The challenge in bringing “social video” to other areas like music and news may lie in managing other communities. Twitch is deeply involved in the video game community and understands what it wants. Whether Twitch could bring that knowledge to other areas remains to be seen.
Twitch works best when streamers have small, but dedicated followings, which allows for productive chats. The larger the followings, the more difficult it is for streamers to connect with viewers, which is one of its core strengths. When it comes to other sectors, it might not be so easy to create those followings.
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