Nearly seven years ago, Justin.tv was officially shuttered as the broadcasting platform went all-in on its game-centric streaming offering, Twitch. At the time, Twitch management even pointed to YouTube as a possible destination for content creators wanting to broadcast non-gaming content. Twitch’s laser focus on gaming and esports has served it well – and the platform still controls a majority of esports viewership – but it’s become quite clear that Twitch now desires a variety of content outside of gaming, as the platform seeks more mainstream audiences. In a sense, Twitch wants to be more like YouTube, which is starting to cut into Twitch’s esports viewership, while continuing to grow its mainstream users.
The variety of non-gaming channels continues to grow on Twitch, and the music industry is paying close attention. Music publication and cultural institution Rolling Stone recently launched its own Twitch channel and hired five full-time staffers to work from a dedicated studio in Manhattan. Additionally, after launching a Twitch channel last May, music platform SoundCloud recently held its own Fortnite tournament on Twitch – management said that it views Twitch as a platform to enable fans to connect and chat with music artists.
These are just the latest moves to bolster Twitch’s music presence. In April 2020, the company hired Spotify’s Director of Product Management as its new Head of Product and Engineering in Music, and it later signed exclusive deals with rapper Logic followed by electronic duo Bob Moses. As the platform positions itself to go mainstream, deals with Rolling Stone, SoundCloud and others enable Twitch to draw a broader audience and more non-endemic sponsorship. This was also the motivation behind Twitch’s launch of a dedicated sports vertical last summer. Strategically, it makes a lot of sense for Twitch to pursue music. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 44% of its users are avid music listeners (10 or more hours weekly) and that figure climbs to 52% among mobile Twitch users. Importantly, the success of Twitch’s strategy depends upon its ability to grow its overall user base. Pulling in new viewers will boost revenues and draw new advertisers. However, if existing esports viewers shift viewing time to music channels, it ultimately lowers the revenues that esports influencers generate on Twitch. Moreover, shifts in viewing among existing users could dilute Twitch’s marketing potential that publishers, teams, and tournament organizers rely upon.