YouTube and Twitch’s battle for livestream supremacy reached new heights in August 2018 when online celebrities Logan Paul and KSI exchanged blows during an amateur boxing match inside of the UK’s Manchester Arena. Developed as a $10 pay-per-view (PPV) for YouTube, the event brought in 860,000 paid streams on the platform. During the same time, however, pirated streams on Twitch reached 1.2 million — the largest of them broadcasting to 400,000 viewers. While legitimate purchases and illegal streams don’t make for an apples to apples comparison, the situation highlights a growing Twitch vs YouTube rivalry that’s playing out in real-time.
YouTube debuted livestreaming for select users in April of 2011. Two months later, Twitch.tv, launched as a gaming spinoff of livestreaming site Justin.tv. Twitch’s built-in audience and dedicated platform made it a hit among gamers, with popularity eventually eclipsing that of its predecessor.
YouTube didn’t offer a dedicated service for gamers until 2015 when Twitch was already a leader in the category — having been purchased by retail giant Amazon the previous year. Since then, the Twitch vs YouTube struggle has continued to grow as the two platforms vie for the attention of gamers and other livestreamers.
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YouTube Gaming made impressive gains in 2017 when it increased streamers by 343%, while Twitch only upped its base by 197%. However, the numbers told a different story earlier this year when Twitch viewership rose 21% in Q1 of 2018, compared to YouTube Gaming’s viewership slip of 12%. Twitch also continues to break livestreaming records, beating its previous number of 2.5 million concurrent viewers in January of 2018 with 2.9 million viewers in June.
Overall, Twitch has shown continual dominance over its gaming foe, YouTube Gaming Live, by posting significantly higher average numbers of concurrent viewers. Data from Streamlabs draws a clear picture, with Twitch’s mountainous viewership dwarfing YouTube Gaming’s.
In late-2015, Twitch launched a new category called Twitch Creative. Looking to provide livestreaming capabilities to users with interests outside of gaming, creators in areas such as drawing, painting, music, and cooking have since joined the network. Recently doing away with Creative, as well as “IRL” (in real life) videos, Twitch has introduced several specific non-gaming categories to their platform, including Art, Food & Drink, Science & Technology, Travel & Outdoors, Talkshow & Podcasts, and others.
takeaways; 1. i don’t know @Ninja but he seems like a positive force at a time when social is in desperate need of one 2. despite her efforts the woman interviewer was still condescending 3. if YouTube isn’t scared of Twitch yet now is a good time to ring the alarms https://t.co/cmztlNCDKm
— Casey Neistat (@CaseyNeistat) March 19, 2018
In August, Bloomberg reported that Twitch has been pursuing exclusive deals with top YouTube creators as it looks to expand the platform’s reach. Earlier this year, top YouTuber, Casey Neistat, tweeted, “if YouTube isn’t scared of Twitch yet now is a good time to ring the alarms.”
Still, the second most subscribed to channel on YouTube is Gaming, while gamer and vlogger, PewDiePie, is the most popular individual creator on the platform, commanding an unmatched 66 million followers.
Paying attention to the ebb and flow of categories and personalities is important to understanding the state and future of the Twitch vs YouTube saga, but demographics play a key role as well. Twitch users are largely male, making up more than 80% of the platform. On the other hand, more than 50% of YouTube users are female. Looking at the top female gamers on each platform, iHasCupquake has the largest female gaming-related channel on YouTube with 6.5 million subscribers, while KittyPlaysGames is the top female gamer on Twitch with 945,331 followers.
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Twitch makes it easy for gaming influencers to monetize their content. With an Affiliate Program open to smaller channels and a Partner Program reserved for gaming celebrities, gamers of various sizes can make money and build a following on Twitch.
It’s estimated that the top 10 gamers on Twitch bring in a collective $23 million in yearly earnings. For gamers serious about turning their passion for gaming into a career, Twitch has created an enticing path to realize their goals. However, YouTube has recently answered back, outlining new monetization options for gamers on their network, as well as offering hundreds of thousands of dollars to creators who use and promote their new payment features.
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As Twitch broadens its scope, it’s tempting to consider the fate of Justin.tv, Twitch’s now defunct general interest predecessor. However, much has changed since 2014, and Amazon-owned Twitch has demonstrated that it understands gamers better than most other networks. Moreover, Twitch’s focus on niche content has proven a successful model that could be duplicated in other categories.
Key to Twitch’s survival and ability to take on YouTube, attracting influencers and users from more diverse interests and demographics will be vital. And with pushes into livestream gaming from Facebook and Microsoft Mixer, the ongoing Twitch vs YouTube drama could include even more prominent players in the future.