The Coming Esports Streaming War: Youtube vs Twitch vs Facebook


In 2016, the revenue from the global esports market is poised to hit roughly $500 million, with that figure jumping to $1bn by 2019. Although, other sources peg the market at $750 million today, and project it hitting $1.9 bn by 2018. Regardless of the actual figure, the esports market is huge — and growing.

In fact, I believe esports are the next big thing, poised for rapid growth and main stream appeal over the next 3–5 years. Put another way, esports today are what Snapchat was just a couple of years ago — or what Youtube was in 2006, or what Twitter was in 2008 & 2009.

As we see more expansion into the space, both from viewers and businesses, it is likely that early first movers will have an advantage down the round (as is usually the case). There will be different segments of the market that develop, but one critical one that I’m focusing on here is streaming and live video.

As I see it, there are really three major players that are currently staking out their claims to reign supreme in the live esports video / streaming space: YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook.

In short, I believe Twitch wins out, with Facebook battling neck and neck (and potentially overcoming Twitch down the road) followed by YouTube.

Here are some of my thoughts about how it’s all going to shake out and why.

YouTube

In the history of the internet, I would rank YouTube as arguably the most important content creation platform of the early web. YouTube is the first place where users were encouraged to create their own content for the world to see and there is no doubt that video is the future when it comes to the internet.

YouTube has recently been making a play into the live streaming side of online video. Personally though, I think their entry into this market segment was a bit too late, and their presence is too established as a content repository.

When I, as a consumer, think about YouTube — I think “pre-recorded videos.” I don’t necessarily think live. I go to YouTube to learn how to tie a tie, or how to cook a dish, or to watch another pointless top 10 video. For this reason, I don’t think YouTube wins out in the live side of the equation.

However, YouTube currently still reigns supreme when it comes to “finding things that have already happened”. This is especially true in the esports world.

Often, I find myself wanting to watch old games or old matches — I never go to Twitch to see old content, I go to Youtube. This is also due to the search functionality being easier to use, and I’m much more familiar with YouTube because…. That’s how I’ve always used YouTube!

Twitch

When I think Twitch, I immediately think “live streaming video games.” Twitch isn’t just a place for gaming, however. Twitch is a content creation platform, and is actively encouraging its users to branch out and stream anything and everything. Yet, their rise to fame and rapid growth came when they niched down and focused specifically on gaming.

Indeed, when I as a consumer think Twitch, I don’t think about Art — I think about gaming, I think “happening now”. And, It is for this reason that I believe Twitch will end up being the top dog of live esports streaming.

Unlike YouTube, I find it incredibly difficult to find old content on Twitch. Maybe I just haven’t tried hard enough, maybe I’m just used to watching whatever is happening live. The point is, Twitch already does live really really well, and that’s why I go to Twitch.

And, I already regularly use Twitch as a live entertainment platform. As a cord-cutting millennial, I see very little use for cable when I can just hop onto Twitch and find content that is 100 times more entertaining and enjoyable for me to watch (it also helps that I have a Roku with the Twitch app installed, ease of use is key).

Facebook

Facebook, in my opinion, is the dark horse here. Facebook has been prioritizing video for a long time, and have made some key plays into the live space recently. Plus, you can never discount their massive user database that is well over a billion people.

Most importantly though, Facebook has shown a commitment to making live esports work. They recently partnered with Blizzard to create an API integration — allowing gamers to stream their game footage directly to their Facebook wall.

I think Facebook can do live gaming well from a technical execution standpoint, however, I see a couple of potentially fatal flaws.

  1. Do you really want to be broadcasting your endless hours of video game sessions to your Mom? Your Grandmother? Your high school friends? Your co-workers? User behavior is important in situations like this.
  2. Younger generations are flocking away from Facebook, is this enough to bring them back? Will this endeavor pan out if the primary demographic you’re targeting isn’t even using your site?
  3. As a streamer, how are you going to monetize this? Half the fun of streaming is creating a brand and trying to earn a living from it. I have a feeling Facebook will make it difficult to monetize streaming activities (or at the very least, they’ll take a cut somehow).

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The jury is still out, but it’s going to be a fun few years.