The CEO of the video-streaming site Amazon bought for $1 billion explains why it's showing people eat food live

Twitch, the video game-streaming site Amazon bought for roughly $1 billion, has recently launched a new channel called “Social Eating” — a place where people can watch others eat food live.

If that sounds bizarre, you’re not alone. Even Twitch CEO Emmett Shear admits he’s not a big “social eating viewer.” 

But there’s a clear reason he’s doing it.

For one, social eating is a real thing that’s huge in South Korea. Called “Mokbang” in Korean, social eating has a massive following that’s making some people make thousands of dollars every night by simply live-streaming themselves eat food.

And with Twitch growing in South Korea, Shear says he’s seen strong demand for a separate social eating channel. Now the popularity is going beyond South Korea, with users from the US and Europe starting to embrace it as well, Shear said on stage at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference on Wednesday.

“We’ve actually seen a surprising amount of uptick in usage in the US and in Europe which I wouldn’t have predicted,” Shear said.

Hunger for content

But the bigger goal may be related to Twitch’s recent efforts to diversify its content. Although the vast majority of Twitch users are gamers who like watching others play games, there’s growing thirst for other content as well, Shear says. It’s why Twitch recently live-streamed the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, while opening up new creative channels where people can stream how to paint a picture or compose a song.

“The video game content we have isn’t going anywhere, and I think it will continue to be most of our content. But there’s just clear demand from both the creator side and the viewer side to consume this non-gaming content. W
e’re going to go meet our customers where they are, rather than have some idea in our head of what they should want, which I think is an easy mistake to make,” Shear said.
Shear seems to see real potential in all the non-gaming channels popping-up on Twitch. In fact, he referred back to the early days of Twitch to explain where this could be headed in the future, during an interview with Bloomberg. He said:

“I remember starting Twitch, and me being really really interested in watching gaming and a lot of people said, ‘People watch other people play games on the internet? Who wants to do that?’

So I’m cautious about writing anything off because just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean there isn’t some group of people for whom this is going to be exciting. So I sort of view it as a wait and see mode. I think it could be huge.”

And for those wondering, here’s a video of what a “mokbang” looks like:

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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