What Is Twitch — An Introduction For Marketers

In 2014, Amazon purchased the live-streaming video platform Twitch for close to one billion dollars. Since then, the site has grown from streaming predominately video games and esports to a wide variety of creative content including painting, music, cooking, variety shows, roleplay, and slice-of-life streams. Streamers often live-stream for 8–12 hours a day, building communities around both their content and their personalities.

Despite being one of the fastest growing user-generated entertainment platforms, Twitch is also one of the least saturated environments in terms of brand presence. Amazon capitalized on the purchase by integrating referral programs and traditional advertising, but brands themselves often ignore the platform for more established bite-size content like Instagram or SnapChat. Although gamers are known for their voracious consumption patterns and are a often coveted segment in campaigns, marketers have overlooked meeting the community on its terms through Twitch.

Why Does Twitch Matter?

A) In 2016 alone, Twitch users consumed over 276 billion minutes of content on the platform
B) 100+ million people watch Twitch each month
C) Twitch reaches half of millennial males in America. 
D) Twitch is only behind Netflix in monthly minutes watched per viewer, and nearly half of engaged users spend 20+ hours a week on Twitch

Streamer Summit1G has 20k+ paid subscriptions to his channel

Who Are These Viewers?

The majority of Twitch watchers are 18–34 with a 75% — 25% split between male and female. They are likely gamers, although the demographic is diversifying as Twitch’s content broadens. The three main motivations behind watching Twitch are social, game-related, and entertainment value.

Social — The social element is what differentiates Twitch from other platforms. Users will turn on Twitch as they arrive home in order to generate a low-engagement social ambiance, similar to studying in a coffee shop. Often users will start to develop attachment to streamers or other viewers, much in the same way someone might make friends with the regulars at a local bar. This effect is augmented if the streamer or community shares personal details about themselves, or regularly greets and acknowledges a user.

Game-related — Users may watch streamers for a specific game in order to learn new strategies and improve their skill sets, learn about a game they are interested in but haven’t purchased yet, or to watch streamers play games that may have nostalgia value, but the viewers haven’t had time to play recently.

Entertainment Value — Entertainment value can include competitions (esports, speedrunning, etc), streamers who viewers find amusing, or non-game content such as painting, roleplaying, or variety shows.

Twitch As A Telethon

One way to conceptualize Twitch is an old-school telethon. Telethons may have a variety of entertainment, but it isn’t (just) the content that matters. Fans watch and donate because they want to feel like they are contributing to a community experience and greater cause. They watch the numbers go up as people donate, and want to be a part of that common goal. They hope for the endorphin rush of a favorite celebrity picking up their phone call and acknowledging their donation. Even if an individual is alone in their house, they are able to see their personal contribution making a difference as both the celebrities and audience validate their choice through applause and gratitude.

Twitch is not just about video games, but rather the experience of a community rallying around a moment and socially validating each other as they form their own shared history. Twitch viewers subscribe and donate money to streamers to reach a shared goal as numbers go up, receive direct thanks from their favorite streamer on-stream, and support a creator making the content they love. Rather than supporting a charity, a user feels as though they are supporting a friend and community.

What Does This Mean To Marketing?

According to Piper Jaffrey’s Gene Munster, by 2020 Twitch could be worth $20 billion and generating $1 billion in revenue. To ignore the platform would be tantamount to ignoring Instagram and YouTube during their early days. As the popularity of Twitch steadily rises, marketers need to be aware of how brands can integrate with the platform and its influencers, and not treat it as simply a niche audience, or worse, as broadcast TV. Social live-streaming is a large part of the future of media, and Twitch has currently cornered that market.

Curious about how to use your newfound knowledge? Check out the next article in the Marketing Guide To Twitch series: Twitch Marketing Campaign Ideas.