What is Twitch?
Twitch – A live streaming video platform owned by Amazon. Generally known for showcasing video game streams and esports tournaments, Twitch also offers a wide variety of streaming channels, ranging from art and cooking to programming and woodworking. Recently, Twitch has begun to feature streams of popular tv shows, political rallies and traditional sports like the NFL. Twitch’s chat feature gives each stream an interactive element where the audience can converse with each other and even interact with the streamer.
In 2017, Twitch.tv users clocked more than 355 million minutes watching 2 million streamers, most of whom Livestream video games. And it’s making those streamers into millionaires.
Twitch was born, inauspiciously, out of the experimental online reality show Justin.tv. It chronicled the life of Justin Kan, an average guy doing average things, and was as exciting
as it sounds. But Kan and co-founder Emmett Shear inadvertently built a video platform that made it easy for anyone to stream content, live, to an interactive audience with its own chat room. Once Shear introduced a focus on gaming, Justin.tv exploded in popularity. A lifelong gamer, Shear understood the value of a site where people could interact with high-level players.
With its launch in 2011, Twitch.tv fed what turned out to be an insatiable hunger. Fans of, say, League of Legends, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite became addicted to the unique interplay, eagerly booing or cheering gamers, or simply hanging out in chat. Video game creators were benefiting as well: For the first time, they could make money from sharing their creations directly with fans, who were happy to trade feedback for the virtual community Twitch provided.
Twitch has traditional subscription fees and advertising but also monetizes its trademark interactivity. Fans purchase Twitch Bits to spend on things like custom chat room emoji or to have a streamer read a personal message during a live broadcast. Fans can even donate directly to a streamer with no strings attached. “[Streamers] of course need to make money, but most want fame,” says Shear. And Twitch has its superstars. One of the most popular, Ninja, pulled in more than 600,000 viewers in one session while playing Fortnite with Drake, Travis Scott and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Ninja told CNBC in March that he is making “at least six figures” a month.
Twitch recently added other categories, including IRL (in real life), dedicated to streamers documenting everything from walking their dog to lifting weights at the gym. But Shear sees the platform extending well beyond gamers. “We want everyone with ambition to come to Twitch,” he says.
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