What Is Twitch, and Why Should I Care?

Recently topping 15 million daily active users, and an aggressive business plan that’s nipping on YouTube’s heels, you might wonder what the heck is Twitch? And why would anyone want to watch a guy who lives in his mom’s basement and sustains himself on Cheetos play a video game?

Cheeto guy isn’t the totality of the gaming industry. According to the Entertainment Software Association, 64 percent of U.S. households own at least one gaming device, and 45 percent of all U.S. gamers are women. If you play on Xbox or just your phone, you count. Twitch covers all of those platforms, with personalities and programming that appeal to a much broader audience than most might suspect. All of this on a platform that increasingly becomes an exciting alternative for brands to reach highly coveted millennial audiences as YouTube loses some of its shine.

Twitch was purchased by Amazon in 2014 and added to its Prime offerings (Twitch Prime) in 2016. Today it’s the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers and video game culture. And it’s not just games being streamed anymore, with Twitch Creative streaming shows on cooking, art tutorials and home-brewing.

Twitch is also aggressively broadening its programming to compete head-on with YouTube and increase ad revenue. Twitch is actively pursuing exclusive livestreaming deals with everyone from popular media companies to lifestyle influencers to celebrities like Will Smith – pulling many away from their channels on YouTube. Of note and to streamers’ chagrin, YouTube/Google has implemented new protocols that change the way videos are able to be viewed, and minimize or eliminate a YouTuber’s ability to monetize their content.

But what is the appeal and value of the platform – as an advertiser, a streamer or a viewer?

A Twitch Advertiser

Amazon and Twitch are actively growing their list of mainstream advertisers and have already attracted brands like Coke, Bud Light, Pizza Hut and Old Spice. But the doors are opening wider and wider for more brands to find audiences here.

Each day, users watch and talk about games being played by more than 2.2 million streamers per month. 82 percent of Twitch users are men, and 55 percent are between ages 18-34. Best of all, the platform offers advertisers the appeal of reaching this notoriously ad-resistant demographic in a live, engaged forum.

The appeal for game-makers and developers to have streamers play their games is obvious: attracting fans to new and existing games and even purchase while viewing is a no-brainer. For non-gaming brands, there are growing opportunities in display and takeover ads. Similar to YouTube and other native video platforms, Twitch serves video pre-, mid- and post-roll ads. To make those video options even sweeter, Twitch’s SureStream video technology platform claims that ads served on it cannot be blocked by third-party ad-blockers.

Potentially even more beneficial is engaging high-profile streamers as paid influencers to their audiences. Official Twitch Influencers account for their top 5 percent of broadcasters, but even streamers with smaller followings can have a big impact. According to Momentum WorldWide We Know Gamers Study 2017, 80 percent of viewers are open to brands sponsoring a specific gamer or team they follow.

A Twitch Streamer

Streamers are growing in number and gaining ground as web personalities. For many, Twitch broadcasting is a way to have fun and connect with friends and fans about their mutual love of gaming or other creative endeavors. It’s also an opportunity to entertain and engage with audiences for money. Whether it’s through donations (or “tips”), advertising or channel subscriptions (which is where Twitch Prime comes in, giving members one free channel subscription per month and paying the channel’s streamer), there are popular streamers now earning a living by playing video games. For real.

Those streamers who become Twitch partners and affiliates can now also sell to Twitch customers, and users viewing their stream can buy the game being played while viewing. As a commission-based model it can be lucrative for both parties and allow the platform to grow a strong creator community that’s deeply invested.

A Twitch Viewer

Like other social channels, Twitch is where like-minded users can communicate and commiserate. Like professional sports or reality shows, this is a form of entertainment. Many streamers are highly skilled players, have engaging personalities or both.

With the global e-sports audience expected to reach an estimated 380 million in 2018, it’s no wonder the Twitch community continues to grow. Like professional sporting events, people fill stadiums around the world to watch the best players and teams go to battle – and Twitch allows users to be part of events on any device. Perhaps, still from their Cheeto-filled basement.

Twitch’s longevity and overall growth potential remains to be seen, and its unfiltered UGC nature certainly presents some concerns for many mainstream brands. However, with Amazon continuing to push this platform forward and YouTube continuing to lose ground, it’s definitely setting itself up as a media powerhouse worth keeping an open mind toward. In the words of Casey Neistat, a popular filmmaker and video blogger, “If YouTube’s not scared of Twitch yet, they should be now.”