Last week, Street published an article detailing exactly why podcasting became so much more popular in the past several months—here’s part two, this time on live–streaming. While live–streaming (specifically on Twitch, streaming’s biggest platform) has a lot in common with podcasting with regards to the factors driving the boost in popularity, including lower cost, higher accessibility, and sheer consumer boredom, there are also a few distinct reasons streaming in particular is the medium of choice for home–bound people of all ages and backgrounds.
Sense of Community
I’m barely a paragraph into this article and I’ve already stopped writing to catch a live–stream from Dream, a YouTuber who’s widely known as one of the best Minecraft players in the world with over 1.6 million followers on Twitch alone. Although I’ve never actually played Minecraft, and to be quite honest, am not particularly invested in the game itself, what drew me to the channel was the genuineness and relaxed vibe. Watching Dream feels a lot like sitting next to an older sibling watching them play a game (I know younger siblings can relate) as opposed to watching far more curated, polished, and highly edited content like a YouTube video or even a podcast. Live–streaming really allows the personality of the creator to shine through while interacting with viewers in a way that makes them feel included in the experience and helping them develop a sense of camaraderie with other viewers—whether that’s through a chat box or otherwise.
And it seems the 90,000 other people also watching and listening to Dream bantering with his fellow streamers and YouTubers, GeorgeNotFound and Sapnap, feel the same way—in a time when it’s so much more difficult to maintain social bonds even with your own friends, there’s something comforting about interacting with a community that has no agenda other than enjoying and supporting their favorite streamers as well as vicariously watching streamers interact with their audiences or even with their fellow streamers live.
Variety of Topics
Gaming as a category, notably including streams of “Valorant,” “League of Legends,” and “Fortnite,” by no means encompasses all viewership on live-streaming platforms like Twitch; in fact, the second biggest Twitch category was Just Chatting, with a total of 134 million hours watched in April—more than both “League of Legends” and “Fortnite.” Beyond that, however, hours watched for the Music and Performing Arts category quadrupled year over year, making it the category with the biggest growth. As more and more consumers move towards live–streaming platforms (with nearly 1.6 billion hours watched in September on Twitch alone), the diversity of topics and wider distribution of hours watched across topics is telling: viewers are flocking to Twitch for an escape from the mundane dreariness of our quarantine routines rather than a vested interest in a specific topic or game (although “Among Us” is taking the lead as one of the most streamed games right now).
Most Twitch users are already aware of the big names in gaming: Ninja, Tfue, and Shroud are the top three most watched Twitch channels, but there are plenty of streamers outside the gaming category who are almost criminally underrated. OliverSmithMusic and ortoPilot from the music category definitely fall within this group, but there are also plenty of other popular streamers in more unexpected topics like michaelreeves in Science and Technology or sashagrey in Food and Drink who are consistently putting out great content for their respective audiences. There are also new creators joining the platform every day, so viewers are likely to find their favorite streamers swiftly after joining the Twitch audience.
Low Bar for Entry
I personally know at least a few people who stream on Twitch as full–time college students (hi, silverstar94_!) and I’m sure plenty of my fellow students can say the same. The accessibility of streaming platforms, not just for students but for would–be creators in general, has grown dramatically over the past several months. It’s no longer the complex, arduous process that requires extensive computer skills but rather a sleeker, more streamlined affair that allows almost anyone with a computer to start streaming if they so desire. As a result, people of all ages have come to the platform to share their passions, from gaming to art to music and many more—a trend that was reflected in the 3.3% increase in new channels this year and the whopping total of 10 million unique streaming channels on Twitch thus far. And of course, the accessibility factor extends to viewers as well; anyone with a device can tune in to Twitch whenever and wherever they are. Especially for people stuck at home more than they’re used to during the pandemic, the appeal of having an interesting stream available live right at their fingertips is absolutely irresistible.
As Twitch expands with regards to the number of creators joining the platform and consequently the variety of content available, viewership will no doubt rise concurrently, with countless viewers seeking a reprieve from the quarantine blues. Here’s to hoping that streaming on Twitch or watching streams continues to help people out of that monotonous rut, as it seems like Twitch has established itself firmly in our everyday routines and at least for now, it’s here to stay.