Chris Sutcliffe explores the future of interactive video for What’s New in Publishing
With the huge amounts of investment into digital video over the past few years, from all corners of the media industry, the question on everyone’s lips is “what is the future of interactive video?” We’ve seen everything from the famous stunts of people watching puddles and watermelons to the rapid rise and disappearance of circular video on Snapchat. But the real future of the medium is likely to be something that has been quietly growing for the past few years, and to which huge brands and publishers are slowly waking: Twitch.
First launched in 2011 as a gaming-related offshoot of the more general livestreaming site justin.tv, Twitch.tv provided gamers an alternative to YouTube for broadcasting their gameplay live. Its USP – and the feature that has enabled its growth – was the live chat that viewers partake in during the stream, and to which the streamers themselves can respond. Over the next few years its user-base and audiences grew, until February 2014 when its status as one of the primary sources of peak web traffic in the US led to its acquisition by Amazon and the closure of justin.tv.
Since then, those figures have steadily increased, and last month alone saw 762 million hours of livestreamed video content consumed on the platform. In 2017, the average Twitch user spent 106 minutes daily on the platform. In a curious twist of fate, a significant proportion of that growth is in ‘In Real Life [IRL]’ video, livestreams of every activities like eating or social exploration – exactly the sort of content around which justin.tv was based originally.
It coincides with huge investment in livestreaming elsewhere on the internet, but the differences between Twitch and its contemporaries give it a number of competitive advantages in the interactive video battle royale. As brand publishers likeBuzzFeed and Disney are looking to invest time and resources in new platforms as Facebook overpromises and underdelivers, that gives Twitch huge competitive advantages.