Live music, big deals, and the rise of ‘Just Chatting’: Pandemic takes Twitch further beyond gaming – GeekWire

Canceled vacations and closed-down cities have fueled an uneven but dramatic rise in the overall audience for live-streaming platforms. Many of the big games on Twitch saw significant drops in their viewership, but other programming like live chats, art, music, and other creative endeavors has risen in both profile and popularity.

These are some of the big takeaways from the July 2020 “State of the Stream” report, as published by the Tel Aviv-based streamer service provider StreamElements, with data by the analytics platform Arsenal.gg. The streaming market has seen a big boost in overall popularity during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, with home audiences turning to live-streamed content for extra human contact in a socially-distanced world, but July’s numbers have a few extra surprises.

In a post-Mixer world, Facebook Gaming and Amazon-owned Twitch have both risen to new heights. Twitch has capitalized on a big audience spike in April to expand its total viewership to more than 1.5 billion hours watched, a 67% increase from this time last year. Facebook Gaming’s viewership jumped from 109 million hours to 345 million in the same time frame. While Twitch is still the undisputed leader here, Facebook has staked out a chunk of the market and doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere.

Source: StreamElements/Arsenal.gg. Note the different scales of the charts.

Notably, this comes after a few of the streamers who were left without platforms after Mixer’s sudden closure have found new homes. Michael “Shroud” Grezesiek signed an exclusive agreement with Twitch a couple of weeks ago, returning to his former platform, which seems to be the general trend among former big-ticket names on Mixer; the notable exception here is Cory “Gothalion” Michael, who switched to a deal with Facebook Gaming in June. Another high-profile deal came from the rapper Logic, who retired from music in July in favor of focusing on new fatherhood, family, and — oh yeah — a reportedly seven-figure exclusivity contract to stream on Twitch. At time of writing, he mostly seems to play Call of Duty.

While video game-based content is still a massive driver of content on livestreams, most of the big games on Twitch saw significant drops in their overall audience from June to July. League of Legends, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto V, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare all saw their viewership decline, while Valve Software’s Counter-Strike ate a massive 90% drop, from 72 million hours watched to 38 million.

Minecraft saw a significant increase, however, as did Blizzard’s World of Warcraft; the latter can possibly be attributed to popular community streamers being given access to the beta test servers for the upcoming new expansion, Shadowlands, as well as a major update in World of Warcraft Classic that reintroduces the war against the insect hordes of the Ahn’Qiraj.

It should be emphasized here, however, that this is the July report. August was a big month for games streaming thanks to the Aug. 4 debut of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout on PS4 and PC, a goofy minigame-fueled battle royale for up to 60 players at once. Games like this have traditionally been huge in the streaming market – for example, Ninja built much of his audience off of the battle royale mode in Fortnite – and Fall Guys has not been an exception, with many big streamers like Timothy “TimTheTateman” Betar flocking to it in the last few weeks. It’s likely that its success will help create a different picture when the August data comes out.

The overall winner among Twitch’s content categories, however, is Just Chatting, its catch-all label for everything from candid conversation to unscripted reality shows, which increased its viewership 6% to 176 million hours watched in July. This continues a gradual climb for Just Chatting content, which began its reign at the top of the Twitch charts back in December 2019, with “just” 80 million hours watched, and has continued to solidify that lead.

Popular streamers for July featured Felix “xQcOW” Lengyel, who took the #1 spot for the first time in 2020. Two big jumps in popularity came from Bruno “NOBRU” Goes at #8, a Brazilian streamer who has focused on a mobile game called Garena Free Fire that’s popular among Asian and Latin American audiences, and Jens “TheRealKnossi” Knossalla, a German streamer who leapt up the charts to steal the #2 spot for the month with a livestreamed event he called Angelcamp 2020. Somehow, Knossalla managed to drag a bunch of European streamers with him into the woods for a professionally-produced fishing trip/reality show and it wasn’t a setup for a horror movie.

The top 10 streamers, as measured by hours of content viewed, in July of 2020. (Source: StreamElements/Arsenal.gg)

Beyond business as usual, Twitch made several big moves in July to diversify the content it offers. The Music & Performing Arts category is on a slow but steady rise, hitting an all-time high in May of 2020. It accounted for 17.6 million hours watched in July, a 387% increase from July of 2019, and a couple of major artists have signed on to the platform.

Mike Shinoda of the popular rap-metal band Linkin Park became a Twitch partner in July after spending much of the pandemic livestreaming his creative process, writing music and making art. On July 10, the result was Shinoda’s second solo album, Dropped Frames, Vol. 1, made “with the assistance” of his fans on Twitch.

Finally, the Art category has been running on Twitch since 2018, and has seen steady growth across the course of 2020.

Much of this is driven by the Bob Ross channel, which streams ad-supported marathons of Ross’s old show The Joy of Painting. Twitch users watched 753,000 hours of Bob Ross over the course of July–sometimes you just need to chill out in front of some happy little trees, I suppose–which is more than the next six most popular Art channels put together.

The next most popular channel, Darkar Company, a Spanish-speaking artist who also plays Fortnite, only drew 264,000 hours. Even so, the Art category nearly doubled its overall share of the Twitch audience in July, from 3.5 million hours watched to 6.5 million.

The aforementioned Fall Guys is likely to be a big driver of hours watched in August’s streaming numbers, but much of the story of Twitch and Facebook’s respective meteoric rise seems to go back to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone’s been stuck inside all summer, movie theaters have been shut, TV has been in repeats, and even professional sports were gone for a while.

It’s easy to conclude that livestreaming has simply leapt into that gap, as was clearly the case earlier this year, but the viewership numbers are high enough at this point that it’s difficult to imagine them ever going back down to pre-pandemic numbers. With streamers becoming major spokes in many video games’ marketing campaigns and media companies like Nickelodeon opting to debut exclusive content via Twitch instead of cable TV, these are strange, unpredictable days for the overall streaming market.

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