Twitch, the new streaming television

Berta Torrecillas

19 April 2021

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The way we consume content is totally different from how we understood it just a while ago. Beyond the struggle between video, on-demand platforms, and TV (if you can call it that now), streaming content is the 2021 frontrunner. And if we’re talking about streaming, well we have to talk Twitch.

Superdigitalisation caused by COVID-19 has not only accelerated changes in organisations and at work. Its scope reaches areas like the one we are currently dealing with: entertainment and consumption habits, which are also radically evolving. Streaming content broke records at the end of 2020. Viewers watched 27.9 billion hours of content across all platforms in 2020 (YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and Mixer), 78.5% more than the 15.63 billion hours in 2019. Streaming is here to stay and Twitch plays a large part in this.

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Twitch: breaking streaming records

Twitch was founded in 2011 as part of a pilot project within the platform. In it, live content of any kind was broadcasted, but its creators bet on promoting the section that had the biggest audience: live video game broadcasts. Little by little, Twitch was attracting the attention of the young, being the meeting point of an entire generation, the centennials (born between the late 90s and early 2000s). Many large companies saw the potential that this had, and it was finally Amazon that acquired the platform in 2014.

Since that date, it has done nothing but break records, while its content offering has evolved to also accommodate digital native events that have no place within traditional media such as eSports competitions and to promote creative content far from the gaming world:

  • Exponential growth: At the beginning of 2020 it had almost 4 million active channels. As of today, it has 9.5M channels.
  • In Q4 2020, Twitch reached 90% of the market share of hours streamed, while YouTube Gaming Live (4.1%) and Facebook (5.7%) shared the rest of the pie.
  • More and more hours consuming content. In 2020, viewers watched 18.41 billion hours of content on Twitch, 67.36% more than the 11 billion hours viewed in 2019.

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A young audience but less and less gamer

The platform, which today hosts an average of more than 30 million visitors a day, is the most popular social network among centennials. According to data from the Global Web Index, 41% of Twitch’s audience is between the ages of 16 and 24. Nor does it go unnoticed among other generations, in fact, little by little it has also been attracting the attention of millennials between 25 and 34 years old, who now account for 32% of its users…

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Although the platform was born with the focus on live broadcasts of video games, 2020 has been the year in which Twitch has managed to reach and capture the attention of a more general public with less focus on video games. If we analyze the most successful category, we find that “Just Chatting” is the one that has accumulated the most hours of reproduction in the last year. A category that was born in 2018 as an option to be able to categorise all that content in which the streamer “only” talks and interacts with his followers on various topics (both from the gaming world and not), and which gained special relevance at the beginning of 2020 also coinciding with the appearance of COVID-19.

Despite the fact that the rest of the categories in the ranking belong to the world of video games, the objective and growth strategy of the platform is to expand its market niche and position itself beyond the gamer universe, managing to attract more viewers and with it brands that want to advertise and invest in the platform. A clear example is found with La Liga, which became the first European sports league to be present on Twitch with exclusive content and live broadcasts of the matches. On top of this, last April Ibai Llanos himself became the first streamer to broadcast the Basque derby between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club de Bilbao live from Twitch. This is not the first time that the well-known streamer collaborated with La Liga, since it is normal for him to comment on some official matches on his Twitch channel (without image) and we can even see the games on Movistar with their background audio. Ibai himself tells it so.

But what makes Twitch different from other platforms?

In the eyes of the new generations, Twitch offers something that YouTube has failed to promote. The feeling of belonging. Twitch is a platform driven by the community in which the streams serve as meeting points or virtual meetings where, beyond being able to consume content, the user can interact, participate and even join in with the rest of the community or with the streamer. The duration of the broadcasts together with the authenticity of the content produced makes us talk about true engagement in its purest form. The platform itself sums it up: “Twitch is the place where millions of people meet live every day to chat, interact and create their own entertainment together.”

That is why it is inevitable to talk about the open “confrontation” that both platforms have, and in which the streamers are the main protagonists. In fact, it is not surprising that in recent years the dance between content creators on YouTube and Twitch has been constant. Twitch’s business model, together with the ease of getting views or subscribers, caused many to prefer to bet on Twitch.

Youtube, for its part, has not stood by and watched but counterattacked by signing exclusive contracts with personalities from the world of gaming and reaching exclusive agreements with Activision Blizzard to broadcast the main eSports leagues from its platform. All these movements look towards the same objective: to monopolise the market by attracting a greater number of users.

Direct monetisation

Anyone can stream content live, but not everyone can make a profit out of it. Twitch offers two levels that a creator can monetise through broadcast content: the Affiliate and the Twitch Partner.

The Twitch Affiliate program is the first level that the platform offers to start being a recognised streamer. Having this type of account offers streamers the ability to:

  • Activate (paid) subscriptions to your channel so that your followers give their support. These subscriptions are divided between the “simple” ones with different prices or the Prime gaming subscription linked to the service offered by Amazon. Each of them offers the user benefits such as ad-free views, exclusive broadcasts, direct chats with the streamer, exclusive emoticons, etc. It is the creators themselves who decide the benefits that the user accesses according to the chosen payment method.
  • Enable Bits to Cheer on your channels. Bits are virtual “objects” (e.g. colored gems) that users buy within the platform and use as a signal of support. Twitch offers part of that compensation to partners.
  • Insertion of advertisements with the relevant remuneration according to reproductions on the channel.
  • Obtain income from the sale of games or items of the game in question that they are using during their live broadcast. Always linked to Amazon.

For those streamers who want to become members or partners, Twitch asks for certain conditions to credit the account and to ensure, above all, the commitment to the continued creation of content of a certain quality. In return, Twitch offers, in addition to what is listed above, additional resources to improve the quality of the content, generate more engagement with the community, and greater visibility within the platform. The process is not simple and it is the platform itself that decides, internally, whether it is granted or not.

How can brands be present on Twitch?

With these figures on the table, it is not surprising that more and more brands are seeking to appear on the platform. Twitch offers, at an advertising level, something different from other social networks: a very specific type of audience with a high level of engagement and commitment within the platform, and the possibility of being able to directly support and sponsor influencers.

Aware of this interest, and the potential behind it, Amazon announced at the end of 2020 the inclusion of Twitch in its advertising orbit, thus formalizing the union at the advertising level. With this movement, Twitch advertising formats, along with their audience, will now be available for inclusion in campaigns launched from Amazon Advertising, and conversely, anyone who activates campaigns from Twitch will also be able to reach Amazon Audiences.

But at the advertising level, what does Twitch offer today?

  • Twitch Ads: The platform offers different options like a brand to launch our ads. On the one hand, we have display ads through banners or video with different available locations, and video ads, which are directly integrated into live broadcasts.
  • Bounty Board: The company offers advertisers a kind of marketplace where they can sponsor directly. In this case, Twitch acts more as an intermediary between the companies that seek to promote their games and the streamers, who must point out that the broadcast is being promoted, and also activate the direct sales system. Bounty Board is a program for members and affiliates only.
  • Sponsorships and collaborations: Without a doubt the king format par excellence within the platform. The degree of user engagement with content creators and the feeling of belonging that is generated, makes this type of action, focused on influencer marketing, the one that offers the most opportunities. The key is knowing how to find the right influencer and audience for our brand or product.

Advertising on Twitch through association with influencers can be as simple or creative as we want, from a branded stream, giveaways, or exclusive presentations. We could see it with the launch of the new PS5 starring, again, one of the kings of Twitch in Spain, Ibai Llanos. A campaign in the purest “unboxing” style that started and took place on Twitch, but ended with a short film that aired on Netflix days later.

Others, such as Lexus, chose to propose a joint dynamic to create the ideal car for any gamer who put themself forward. From the hand of streamer Fuslie, the more than 554,000 unique spectators who attended the show designed, through surveys, the perfect model for them. The result was the “new” Lexus Gamers IS, a unique car on the market with an interior reminiscent of a video arcade. And if we go a step further, we find cases such as Pizza Hut, which launched in November “Friday Night Bites”, a series of live programs presented by Jericho that every Friday seeks to bring together celebrities and influencers to compete in challenges with pizza always being very present.

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Brands considering Twitch as a potential advertising platform should take a few things into consideration before making the final decision:  

  • First, brands must make sure Twitch is where their audience is. Besides the increased interest in streaming, we’d have to assess the ROI and determine whether it is worth the effort. 
  • Understanding the platform’s communication codes, as well as the behaviour of its communities, is crucial to develop a successful strategy. Twitch is all about engagement and spontaneity, so we’d have to play by the rules of the game if we want to remain relevant. 
  • Beyond defining what our brand will do, the most important thing is to determine with whom. Finding a brand ambassador that is a perfect fit for our brand and analysing their community is often the most difficult part of the process. 

However, we should stop considering Twitch in gaming terms only. Even if it was born as a videogame streaming platform, it is evolving into infinite themes and categories that allow for activations beyond the gaming sector, such as beauty.

Thinking of Twitch as the alternative to television, on which to duplicate brand content activated on other channels, is a mistake that we must avoid at all costs. If we want to be relevant as a brand, it is important to avoid recycling advertising content and use the native formats for each platform. We must have the ability to innovate by adapting to the environment and to the new language codes. Behavioral patterns and content consumption are no longer the same as before. Young audiences are increasingly abandoning traditional TV and linear broadcasts to seek new formats, new genres and new ways of telling stories and, above all, to form part of them.