Reports broke on Sunday evening that YouTube, the uncontested leader in online video, was in talks to buy Twitch, a relatively niche streaming service, in a deal totaling more than $1 billion. The Wall Street Journal quickly amended Variety’s original report and claimed that talks between the two companies were only in the early stages, but the possible purchase would be YouTube’s most important yet. So, what is Twitch?
Twitch is a service for livestreaming video games (or more accurately, video footage of those games). Users host streams and usually offer live commentary as they play, reacting to the game in real time. This genre of online video—Let’s Play—is incredibly, and increasingly, popular.
As of February, Twitch boasted 45 million monthly uniques. The newest consoles from both Microsoft and Sony even have livestreaming capabilities baked in, whereas older console feeds need to be run through a computer. One of the most popular, if not the most popular, YouTube channels is hosted by a 24-year-old Swedish gamer who goes by the nickname of PewDiePie.
According to Polygon, “in an average month, Twitch broadcasts more than 6 million videos and fans watch 12 billion minutes of footage.” In terms of percentage of peak U.S. internet traffic, Twitch ranks fourth, ahead of Facebook, Amazon, and Hulu.