YouTube has thoroughly dominated free, ad-supported online video practically since its launch over 13 years ago. Over the years there have been lots of competitors who have come and gone, unable to compete with the sheer volume of traffic and monetization potential that YouTube offered independent content creators.
But a new battle is escalating for the attention of YouTube’s most important creators. Twitch, the e-gaming streaming site Amazon acquired 4 years ago for nearly a billion dollars, is making aggressive offers to YouTube’s top creators to help broaden Twitch’s appeal. Per a Bloomberg article yesterday, and others that have preceded it, Twitch is offering creators minimum guarantees that can run to several million dollars per year, plus shares of ad and subscription revenues.
While it has a loyal e-gaming following, Twitch is still a minnow compared to YouTube’s whale; Twitch gets around 11 million unique viewers per month on desktop while YouTube gets 139 million. Then there’s mobile consumption, which YouTube has long said accounts for half or more of its monthly consumption. Finally there’s connected TV, where YouTube’s app is one of the most popular.
But Twitch has several things going for it, not least of which appears to be Amazon’s commitment to diversify the site, with virtually unlimited resources to do so. Twitch also specializes in live-streaming, whereas the lion’s share of YouTube viewing is still on-demand. So if you’re a creator focused on live, or looking to expand into it, Twitch offers a great alternative. Last but not least, Amazon is forging hard into advertising, and so the prospect of reaching Twitch’s young male viewers is very compelling.
Still, a quick visit to Twitch reveals just how much a stretch non e-gaming content would be for Twitch. As usual, the main section of the site features 8 different gamers playing and narrating their games live. “Featured Games” is another highlight section on the home page, followed by “Top Live Channels,” “Top PS4 Channels” and “Top Xbox One Channels.” How and where non-gaming content like cooking, shopping and comedy videos would fit into the Twitch user experience isn’t clear, nor whether Twitch’s gamer-centric audience would welcome it or view it as an intrusion to their focused site.
Regardless, it does appear that Twitch is committed to diversifying and that in response, YouTube is taking steps to retain its creators. For the first time in a long time YouTube has a well-financed potential competitor. It will be interesting to see how much headway Twitch will be able to make.