Livestreaming is getting bigger (and better) all the time. The rise of Twitch and YouTube Live have ushered in an era of livestreams on sophisticated platforms with a wealth of creator and audience tools. Twitch has long been the reigning champion of the livestreaming space, but YouTube Live is showing robust growth that far outpaces the more mature Twitch.
Fresh off the announcement that all YouTubers with more than 1,000 subscribers will be able to livestream on mobile, the YouTube app skyrocketed to the top charts in the App Store for the first time in over a year. There’s excitement surrounding the platform and the livestreaming toolset that’s becoming more widely available to creators.
YouTube Live has seen impressive growth since its launch in 2015, but its numbers still lag way behind those of Twitch, which has a firm handle on the livestreaming market, particularly in gaming. The gaming community was one of the first to adopt livestreaming in a meaningful way, and Twitch continues to maintain and grow that core user base.
In its Q1 2017 analysis of Twitch and YouTube Live, Streamlabs found that based on the numbers coming from their streamers, Twitch’s total growth numbers pale in comparison to those of YouTube Live. This is to be expected, though — Twitch launched nearly six years ago, in 2011. YouTube Live is much younger and as its tools open up to a wider user base, one would expect to see large gains in growth.
Streamlabs puts the number of YouTube livestreamers at just over 39,000 for the week of April 15 (based only on those streamers using Streamlabs), a far cry from Twitch’s nearly 201,500 streamers for the same week. But over the six weeks between the week of March 11 and the week of April 15, YouTube Live saw a 36.6% increase in weekly streamers, versus Twitch’s 4.1% increase.
YouTube Live is certainly gaining traction, but it may have a difficult time wresting control of the live video gaming market from the Twitch, which sees a total of over 2 million streamers each month.
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YouTube Live shows promising growth, but Twitch is particularly strong when it comes to opportunities for creators to monetize their streams. Streamlabs found that 96% of the tips generated for its streamers came from Twitch, while just 4% came from YouTube Live.
Some of this has to do with YouTube Live’s smaller market share, but by March 2017, YouTube Live made up 22.6% of Streamlabs’s active streamers. Twitch and YouTube Live both allow viewers to tip streamers, but the discrepancy in tip revenue speaks to a more active, engaged, and supportive audience on Twitch (about half of which spend 20 hours or more on the platform each week). Twitch users have spent years building their followings, and those followings tend to be willing to commit more in the way of financial support for their favorite creators.
Tips aren’t the only method for monetizing Twitch streams, though. Twitch’s Partner Program has over 17,000 streamers, and the monetization program is a major draw for creators choosing between the two platforms. In addition, Twitch unveiled a new feature that will allow streamers to capitalize on another revenue stream: a portion of sales from games sold directly from a streamer’s channel page.
YouTube Live will have more opportunities for monetization as it grows, and Twitch’s trajectory might provide a useful blueprint for success where monetizing livestreaming is concerned.
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Livestreaming may be a new addition, but YouTube is the largest video platform in the world. It’s no stranger to drawing massive audiences, and at the current growth rate, YouTube Live is on track to reach Twitch size in 18-24 months. For now, though, livestreaming still belongs to Twitch.
Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Periscope are familiarizing large user bases with livestreaming through their social media feeds and activities, but Twitch and YouTube Live represent a different corner of the market. More focused on creators who create specifically for live platforms, Twitch and YouTube Live are positioned to fill a specific need within the livestreaming landscape.
Twitch’s hold on livestreaming in the gaming community seems unwavering. That said, the dominance of one platform over another has been known to change on a dime (Instagram Stories vs. Snapchat Stories, for instance). The most interesting question surrounding YouTube Live is that of the community and culture that’s still developing around livestreaming outside of gaming. Features like Super Chat and the now widely available mobile livestreaming capabilities will help that community (and the micro-communities that are so important to YouTube and its creators) grow and develop further.
There are streamers on Twitch who stream content outside of gaming, but the majority of its community is gaming-focused. If YouTube Live can’t manage to take a significant chunk out of Twitch’s gaming market, it’ll have to find a way to build a community around other live content.
Thus far, we’ve seen YouTube Live used to broadcast panels and events, multi-person discussions, sporting events, news, and more. As more use cases arise, dominance in the livestreaming landscape will likely be determined by the ability to foster a community, monetize, and draw the best talent, publishers, and creators to the platform and to attract engaged and loyal viewers.