Type of site
|Streaming video service|
|Launched||June 6, 2011|
|233 (August 2014[update])|
Twitch (also known as Twitch.tv) is a live streaming video platform owned by Amazon.com Inc. Introduced in June 2011 as a spin-off of the general-interest streaming platform Justin.tv, the site primarily focuses on video gaming, including playthroughs of video games by users, broadcasts of e-sports competitions, and other gaming-related events. Content on the site can either be viewed live, or viewed on an on-demand basis.
The popularity of Twitch would eclipse that of its general-interest counterpart; by mid-2013, the website had amassed an average of 43 million viewers per month, and by February 2014, it was considered the fourth largest source of peak Internet traffic in the United States. At the same time, Justin.tv's parent company was re-branded as Twitch Interactive to represent the shift in focus – Justin.tv was shut down as of August 2014.
When Justin.tv was launched in 2007 by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, the site was divided into several content categories. The gaming category grew especially fast, and became the most popular content on the site. The company then decided to spin off the gaming content as Twitch.TV, inspired by the term twitch gameplay. It launched officially in public beta on June 6, 2011. Since then, Twitch has attracted more than 35 million unique visitors a month. Twitch has about 80 employees, and is headquartered in San Francisco.
Especially since the shutdown of its direct competitor Own3d.tv in early 2013, Twitch has become the most popular e-sports streaming service by a large margin, leading some to conclude that the website has a "near monopoly on the market". Competing video services, such as YouTube and Dailymotion, began to increase the prominence of their gaming content to compete, but have had a much smaller impact so far. As of mid-2013, there were over 43 million viewers on Twitch monthly, with the average viewer watching an hour and a half a day. As of February 2014, Twitch is the fourth largest source of Internet traffic during peak times in the United States, behind Netflix, Google, and Apple. Twitch makes up 1.8% of total US Internet traffic during peak periods.
Growth, acquisition speculation
On February 10, 2014, Twitch's parent company Justin.tv, Inc. was renamed Twitch Interactive, reflecting the increased prominence of the service over Justin.tv as the company's main business. That same month, a stream known as Twitch Plays Pokémon, a crowdsourced attempt to play Pokémon Red using a system translating chat commands into game controls, went viral; by February 17, the channel had reached over 6.5 million total views since its introduction five days prior, and was averaging concurrent viewership between 60 to 70 thousand viewers, with at least 10% participating. Vice President of Marketing Matthew DiPietro praised the stream, considering it "one more example of how video games have become a platform for entertainment and creativity that extends WAY beyond the original intent of the game creator. By merging a video game, live video and a participatory experience, the broadcaster has created an entertainment hybrid custom made for the Twitch community. This is a wonderful proof on concept that we hope to see more of in the future." Beginning with its 2014 edition, Twitch was made the official live streaming platform of the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
On July 30, 2014, electronic dance music act Steve Aoki broadcast a live performance from a nightclub in Ibiza via Twitch; the site's staff cited interest in live music via the platform from both users and the music industry as an impetus for the broadcast. Aoki's appearance did not mark the first time that a concert had been officially streamed via the service, as Twitch broadcast a performance of Video Games Live from San Diego in July 2013, which was sponsored by Ubisoft and Amazon.com.
August 2014 changes
On August 5, 2014, the original Justin.tv site was abruptly shut down, citing a need to focus resources entirely on Twitch. On August 6, 2014, Twitch introduced an updated archive system, with multi-platform access to highlights from past broadcasts by a channel, higher quality video, increased server backups, and a new Video Manager interface for managing past broadcasts and compiling "highlights" from broadcasts that can also be exported to YouTube. Due to technological limitations and resource requirements, the new system contained several regressions; the option to archive complete broadcasts on an indefinite basis ("save forever") was removed, meaning that they can only be retained for a maximum of 14 days, or 60 for partners and Turbo subscribers. While compiled highlights can be archived indefinitely, they were limited to two hours in length. Additionally, all on-demand videos became subject to acoustic fingerprinting using software provided by Audible Magic; if copyrighted music (particularly, songs played by users from outside of the game they are playing) is detected, the 30-minute portion of the video which contains the music will be muted. Live broadcasts are not subject to these filters.
The audio filtering system, along with the lack of communication surrounding the changes in general, proved to be controversial among users. In particular, users felt that the new filtering system was too inaccurate, flagged music played within games themselves, and voiced concerns that it could affect the service's ability to present footage from games which notably include large amounts of licensed music, such as the Grand Theft Auto series. The change also drew comparisons to the similar policies employed by YouTube—especially given the rumors surrounding Google's bid to purchase the service. In a Reddit AMA, co-founder Emmett Shear admitted that his staff had "screwed up" and should have provided advance warning of the changes, and promised that Twitch had "absolutely no intention" of implementing audio filtering on live broadcasts. On August 7, 2014, the 2-hour length limit on highlights was again removed, and an appeals process was added for flagged audio contained within on-demand recordings.
Acquisition by Amazon.com
On August 25, 2014, it was announced that Amazon.com Inc. would acquire Twitch Interactive for $970 million. The deal is expected to be finalized by the end of 2014. Sources reported that the rumored Google deal had fallen through and allowed Amazon to make the bid; Forbes reported that Google had backed out of the deal due to potential antitrust concerns surrounding it and its existing ownership of YouTube. The acquisition was closed on September 25, 2014.
Twitch is now operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc, with Emmett Shear remaining as CEO. Shear touted the Amazon Web Services platform as an "attractive" aspect of the deal, and that Amazon had "built relationships with the big players in media" which could be used to the service's advantage—particularly in the realm of content licensing. The purchase of Twitch marks the third recent video gaming-oriented acquisition by Amazon, which had previously acquired the developers Reflexive Entertainment and Double Helix Games.
Content and audience
Twitch is designed to be a platform for real-time coverage of electronic sports. This includes coverage of large esports tournaments, personal streams of individual players, and gaming-related talk shows. A number of channels do live speedrunning. The Twitch homepage currently displays games based on viewership. The typical viewer is predominately male and aged between 18 and 34 years of age. TwitchTV is looking to expand their viewers, including attracting more female gamers. To achieve this, one of the proposed goals is to increase the kind and types of games people come to spectate.
Partners on Twitch sometimes host sessions for charity. By 2013, the website has hosted events which raised over $8 million in donations for charitable causes such as Extra Life.
In 2013, particularly due to increasing viewership, Twitch had issues with lag, particularly in Europe. Twitch has subsequently added new servers in the region. In order to address these problems, Twitch has also implemented a significant delay on streams, which has been criticized for negatively impacting broadcaster-viewer interaction. Twitch says that the increased latency is an acceptable tradeoff for decreased stutter.
In July 2011, Twitch launched its Partner Program, which has reached 4,000 members. Similar to the Partner Program of other video sites like YouTube, the Partner Program allows popular content producers to share in the ad revenue generated from their streams.
Advertising on the site has been handled by a number of partners. In 2011, Twitch had an exclusive deal with Future US. On April 17, 2012, it was announced that Twitch announced a deal to give CBS Interactive the rights to exclusively sell advertising, promotions and sponsorships for the community. On June 5, 2013, Twitch announced the formation of the Twitch Media Group, a new in-house ad sales team which has taken over CBS Interactive's role of selling advertisements.
Twitch is available as a mobile app on the iOS and Android platforms. Key features include viewing Twitch's streaming content in high definition and in landscape view. It offers a browsing option of the top streamers. Users can browse by game title or featured games. The app also allows users to follow their favorite channels and has also an in-app chatting feature which allows viewers to chat with other viewers.
Twitch has been integrated into PC software, including video streaming to Twitch directly from EA's Origin software, Ubisoft's Uplay, games played on modern Nvidia video cards (via the driver's ShadowPlay feature), and games such as Minecraft and Eve Online. Players also have the ability to link their Twitch accounts with accounts on Valve's steam software. In 2013, Twitch released a software development kit to allow any developer to integrate Twitch streaming into their software.
Twitch also supports streaming from some consoles. Twitch has dedicated software for the Xbox 360, Ouya, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. CEO Emmett Shear has stated a desire to support a wide variety of platforms, stating "Every platform where people watch video, we want to be there."
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