Under pressure from Facebook and YouTube, how is Twitch retaining its fans?

Albert Sheng • March 6, 09:08

Twitch has been a staple, if not the pinnacle, of the live gaming media landscape  for close to a decade. While YouTube made attempts to challenge it with their YouTube Gaming branch, no other competitors tried to take parts of their market share in a notable way. 

Now that YouTube Gaming and YouTube proper have merged and Facebook has begun to integrate live streaming (with a focus on gaming)  into their social media platform, Twitch is part of a stronger field. They have lost viewers. However, the hours-watched figures continue to stay strong. How is that happening?

Brand recognition

One thing Twitch has going for it is its brand recognition. The assumption is always that, if a customer wants to watch a live stream of someone gaming then Twitch is the place to go. An ex-professional esports player loads up their favorite game and users tune in to see world class gameplay. An internet personality who has never streamed before is sets up an account so that they can play with other personalities in a massive multiplayer environment. A streamer tweets they are checking out all new online casinos here and an audience of interested parties looking for reviews and new places to try flock in. 

Gaming and Twitch are synonymous.

They offer different broadcast options, though. Music, arts, and ASMR are popular among Twitch users. Just Chatting is their latest category and the one which rivals their gaming content for viewing figures, with personalities like Hassan Piker pulling in 50,000 to 80,000 viewers with streams that revolve largely around him discussing online culture and politics.

The difference for Twitch, though, is that their attempts to diversify are from the foundation of gaming. YouTube and Facebook are moving towards gaming. Twitch is, as mentioned above, the default choice for live gaming. YouTube and Facebook don’t have such specificity or such a clear association. 

Esports broadcasts 

YouTube, at the beginning of 2020, announced an exclusive broadcasting deal with Activision. This meant that not only would Google fulfil the hosting and technical needs of broadcasts, but that YouTube would be the only place that fans could see the Overwatch League, Hearthstone Esports, and the Call of Duty League. Twitch had had a similar deal with Activision for the first two seasons of the Overwatch League, which saw some success. 

YouTube’s move came after they’d signed a number of creators – Jack “CouRage” Dunlop and Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, who had previously been using Twitch. This was an aggressive move, one that had to be made unless YouTube wanted to be a casual competitor.

Twitch coped, though. Overwatch continued to be popular but the Call of Duty League struggled during its regular season events despite its impressive viewership for its final match between the Dallas Empire and Atlanta FaZe. 

However, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends continued to broadcast on Twitch. The ESL Pro League – Counter Strike: Global Offensive’s official professional league – broke records with half-a-million concurrent viewers. League of Legends has multiple domestic leagues across the world (some are more popular than others) that feed into a World Championship. Both of these titles dwarfed the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League figures.

Facebook have yet to announce any deals of this nature, after it was decided they would no longer be bidding for exclusive rights to broadcast sports, as they’d done with Soccer’s English Premier League.

Chess

During the early part of 2021, Twitch has seen an audience for chess grow. Chess.com has been a driving force behind this. Its investment in its own product has seen a huge community grow around it. But hosting sponsored streams with prominent cultural figures and running tournaments have resulted in more people watching Chess content than League of Legends and Valorant so far this year. 

Sometimes there are fads which grow ironically or sincerely out of culture or a platform. Chess is, right now, one of the targets of that. This does not mean that it cannot happen on other sites, just that it seems to happen on Twitch more often than YouTube or Facebook, currently. Twitch is still the default.

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