Twitch is a livestreaming platform focused on video games. It was founded by Justin Kan in 2011, originally as a spin-off of Justin.tv. The latter started life in 2007 as a single channel, broadcasting Kan’s life live around the clock – pioneering the concept of ‘lifecasting’.
The website attracted interest from others who were more interested in broadcasting their own lives than viewing that of Kan’s, which had nonetheless served as great exposure for Justin.tv. Acting on this interest, the site relaunched later in 2007, allowing users to create their own channels and broadcast their own content through the platform.
Streaming gaming was not as simple then as it has become today, when – thanks to Twitch – functionality is built into modern games consoles. This, however, was a key area of focus for the nascent company, who accordingly hired a specialist streamer to help people set up video game streaming. This was a prescient move. The gaming category of Justin.tv quickly established itself as the most popular on the site, leading to a decision to spin it out as Twitch.tv.
Before long, Twitch was vastly eclipsing Justin.tv, to the extent that parent company Justin.tv Inc was rebranded at Twitch Interactive. Justin.tv was discontinued in august 2014.
With 45 million unique visitors by October 2013, it was only a matter of time before the big names of digital business came sniffing. In this instance it was Amazon that saw the huge potential of Twitch. And by August 2014, Twitch had become an Amazon property, with just short of $1 billion changing hands in its acquisition of the streaming platform, which was now up to 55 million monthly active users, and accounting for 1.8% of peak internet traffic – behind only Netflix, Apple, and Google.
Traffic continued to grow, with 1.5 million broadcasters and 100 million monthly viewers in 2015, rising to 2.2 million broadcasters and 15 million daily viewers in 2018 – around a million of which could be found using the platform at any given time. Average concurrent viewers were up to 1.4 million in Q1 2020. The platform is integrated with Amazon Prime and allows streamers to make money by offering in-stream links through which viewers can purchase the games being played.
Twitch broadcasters – perhaps most famously Ninja (though he now streams on Microsoft Mixer), who has featured on the cover of ESPN – have become celebrities in their own right. These are not the only celebrities to be found using the platform. The non-tournament record for concurrent viewers was set in March 2018, when the aforementioned Ninja played Fortnite alongside NFL star JuJu Smith-Schuster, and musicians Travis Scott and Drake.
Twitch also broadcasts some of the world’s most prominent esports competitions, which offer lucrative sums of prize money to professional players, many of whom are contracted to franchise teams which carry considerable cachet.
If you’re a stranger to the world of the world’s largest video game livestreaming platform, then read on to see more Twitch statistics, including the latest viewing figures, demographic user breakdowns, and how Twitch shares its revenue.
Table of Contents
Key Twitch Statistics
- 3.8 million unique broadcasters over February 2020
- Average monthly Twitch broadcasters 3.64 million over 2019
- 56,000 concurrent Twitch broadcasters on average, as of March 2020
- 1.44 million concurrent viewers on average, as of March 2020
- 41,100 Twitch Partners, as of March 2020
- Highest peak concurrent Twitch views in 2020 (as of March) 533,000, for The Gregf
- Tfue most followed active Twitch account, with 7.8 million
- Ninja had 14.7 million followers before defecting to Microsoft Mixer
- League of Legends all-time most-viewed game on Twitch, with 29 billion views (as of April 2020)
- Twitch claimed 65% share of hours viewed (3.1 billion), and 72% hours (121.4 million) streamed against game streaming rivals in Q1 2020
- 2.3 billion hours watched on Twitch in Q4 2019 (compared to 0.9 billion on YouTube Gaming and 0.1 million on Mixer)
- As of 2017, 124 million clips were stored on Twitch, with 1.7 billion views collectively
- Twitch users watch 95 minutes per day on average
- Twitch acquired by Amazon for $1 billion in August 2014
- Twitch ranked 33 in the world in Alexa’s web ranking in April 2020
- 65% of the Twitch userbase is male
- Around 23% of Twitch desktop traffic comes from the US
- Record for single channel concurrent Twitch views 1.1 million for a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament hosted by ELEAGUE in January 2018
- Overall record for concurrent Twitch views 1.7 million for League of Legends Worlds hosted by Riot Games in November 2019
- Ninja holds the non-tournament record for single channel concurrent viewers on Twitch, at 635,000 (playing Fortnite alongside Drake, Travis Scott, and Juju Smith-Schuster)
- Twitch 2019 revenue estimated at $1.54 billion, $300 million of which was generated through advertising
Twitch User Statistics
3.8 million streamers broadcasted on Twitch in February 2020, according to Twitch Tracker.
This compares to 2.2 million reported by Twitch itself two years prior. At this point, the number of unique daily viewers was pegged at 15 million, with the number of monthly users at 140 million. More up-to-date stats on daily and monthly unique Twitch viewers are not available at the time of writing.
We do know, through Twitch Tracker, that the average number of concurrent viewers stood at 1.4 million over February 2020, with peak Twitch viewing figures just a shade shy of 4 million – a threshold exceeded during the coronavirus lockdown that followed.
This puts Twitch well ahead of many traditional media outlets. Indeed, by early 2018, Twitch was outstripping MNSBC and CNN in terms of peak concurrent viewership (885,000 and 783,000 respectively). Fox News and ESPN were logging 1.5 million at this point..
Numbers from TwitchTracker, which collates real-time as well as long-term Twitch statistics, show increases in the average monthly Twitch broadcasters.
While we saw rapid growth between 2017 and 2018 in particular (2 million to 3.4 million, or 70%), 2019’s average of 3.64 million represented something of a slowdown. Coming to the end of Q1 in 2020, a figure of 3.84 million for the year-to-date suggests this slowdown is likely to continue.
If we wanted to give it a bit of spin, though, we could say that 2020’s figure is nearly double 2017’s – and four times more than 2013’s.
Average monthly broadcasters Twitch, 2012-2020
As of March 2020, an average of 56,000 of these 3.84 million monthly Twitch broadcasters are concurrently broadcasting.
The number of average channels has also slowed after seeing rapid growth between 2017 (24,700) and 2018 (41,100 – 67% growth), with 2019 (49,500 – a still solid 20% growth) and 2020 (56,400 – 14%) seeing more modest growth.
Average concurrent channels Twitch, 2012-2020
While we’ve seen a slowdown in growth in content creators on Twitch, viewer numbers have been growing at a more solid rate, if we take average concurrent viewers as our measure.
That said, 18% growth between 2018 (1.07 million) and 2019 (1.26 million) still represents a slowdown on the 29% recorded the year before (from 0.75 million in 2017).
As of March 2020, this number had climbed to 1.44 million – an amazing figure when we consider what this figure is what we would see at any given moment around the clock.
Certainly many a traditional television network would love to be boast viewing figures like this today…
Average concurrent viewers Twitch, 2012-2020
The early days of the coronavirus pandemic (the time of writing) saw an influx of viewers to Twitch, with average concurrent viewers increasing 12% year-on-year in March (as of midway through the month)- the biggest year-on-year increase since August 2019. In absolute figures that’s 143 million Twitch viewers, compared to 127 million in 2019.
Another analysis found that Twitch viewership numbers increased by 31% between 8 March and 21 March.
Clearly the enforced social distancing measures have sent viewers back to Twitch in their droves, for some lighthearted gaming content in a difficult time. In April 2020, Twitch hit 4 million concurrent viewers for the first time, driven by the beta release of Riot’s VALORANT.
It also inspired creativity, with a 3.3% increase in new channels – the second-biggest increase since January 2019.
Year-on-year increases in Twitch viewers, 2019 vs 2020
As of April 2020, Alexa ranked Twitch 33 in the world for engagement and traffic, while SimilarWeb placed it 48.
Twitch’s popularity has also spilled over into the real world, in the form of TwitchCon. 35,000 attendees were reported for the first edition in 2016, with 2.2 million joining online.
The 2017 edition, held in Long Beach played host to 50,000 visitors. Audience numbers for the 2018 edition are not available, but the San Jose event suffered from overcrowding, suggesting numbers were high.
In 2019, The San Diego Convention Center reported 28,000 attendees – though we might assume this was for the opening day rather than the whole event. The San Diego Union Tribute estimated 25,000 visitors per day for the three-day event. 10,000 attendees were at the afterparty, headlined by Little Nas X.
2019 saw the inaugural TwitchCon Europe, held in Berlin. A second edition was due to be held in Amsterdam in May 2020, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Twitch user demographics
Twitch is an overwhelmingly male-dominated platform. In September 2017 Twitch itself reported ComScore statistics which showed that men made up 81.5% of its userbase. Over half – 55% to be precise – of these were aged between 18-34. It has since removed this stat from its resources, presumably as it does not show Twitch in the best light…
GlobalWebIndex stats from Q2 2019, however, show a less drastic gender split, with 65% male to 35% female.
In terms of the age split, however, these stats show a greater percentage of Twitch users falling into younger age categories, with 73% in total falling into the two brackets aged under 35. The greater share (41%) are 16-24, with around a third aged 25-34.
Twitch statistics from SimilarWeb dating from February 2020, show that the US is by far the biggest Twitch market in the world, accounting for over one fifth of web traffic (desktop) – 23% to be precise. It is followed by Germany on 7%, then South Korea and Russia on around 6% apiece. France rounds out the top-five at 4%.
Twitch.tv was ranked 48 globally by SimilarWeb in April 2020; 2 in video games. In the US it ranked 69.
Twitch viewership by country: SimilarWeb
Alexa also puts the US squarely in the lead (over March 2020), with nearly a third of traffic. It is followed by Germany on 9%, and the UK on 5%.
Alexa ranks Twitch 33 in terms of global traffic and engagement, rising to 14 in the US (April 2020).
Twitch viewership by country: Alexa
Notably, Twitch was banned in the potentially-huge Chinese market in September 2018. Twitch had reportedly climbed to third in the Chinese iOS store shortly before.
It may the biggest source of traffic, but Twitch users numbers in its home market of the US appear to be on a downward trend, with 18 million in November 2019 comparing unfavourably to 22 million a year prior, according to ComScore data. Coronavirus will perhaps reverse this trend in the short run, but whether that is sustainable remains to be seen.
Twitch partner content creators and affiliates
Twitch allows broadcasters to monetise their efforts through the Twitch Partner Program and the Twitch Affiliate Program. The former represents the more lucrative and prestigious of of the two programs.
Twitch Partners are prominent Twitch broadcasters, who can earn a share of Twitch revenue through subscriptions to their channels (available for $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99; or through Twitch Prime), ‘Bits’ (a virtual currency passed from viewers to broadcasters), and ads played on their the channel (the frequency of which they can determine through their dashboard).
They are able to earn this status through regularly reaching and interacting with large audiences. These are the prize broadcasters viewers tune in to see – and therefore essential to Twitch’s ongoing success.
Twitch Tracker stats show a total of 40,100 Twitch Partners as of March 2020. This only represents a marginal increase over 2019’s 35,600, albeit we are only three months into the year for this aggregated rather than average figure.
We don’t have a figure for 2018, but we know that 27,000 were recorded in 2017, giving us a rate of around 5,000 new Twitch Partners per year. According to official Twitch stats (now removed) this represented a 10,000 increase over the previous year.
Ultimately, of course, Twitch itself is in control of this metric. But it gives us an idea of the quantity of top content makers it considers essential enough to its popularity to give a cut of Twitch revenue.
Twitch partners, 2012-2020
To support their efforts in revenue generation, Twitch Partners are able to access a number of additional features – such as the ability to store on-demand recordings of gameplay for 60 days, consideration for special promotional opportunities, and channel customisation options.
Applicants for the Twitch Partner Program are considered on a case-by-case basis, with a focus on average concurrent viewership figures and a regular broadcasting schedule. They also need to complete the ‘Path to Partner’ achievement, which involves streaming for 25 hours over 12 unique days over a 30-day period, during which their viewership must average 75.
Affiliates are able to make money from their streams through cheers, paid subscriptions, and commission from game sales generated from click-throughs on their streams.
In order to apply to become Affiliates, users must have broadcast at least 500 minutes over seven unique broadcast days over the period of a month, during which time they must have an average of three concurrent viewers. They must also have a minimum of 50 followers.
We don’t have a concrete figure for how many Affiliate Streamers there are out there, as of March 2020. In April 2018, Twitch reported that it had added 220,000 Affiliates over the past year. This was the first year of the Twitch Affiliate program.
Most-popular Twitch streamers
Ask the average person to name a famous Twitch streamer, and they will most likely name Ninja.
Tyler Blevins, however, has now left the platform along with which he rose to prominence, moving on to Microsoft Mixer in August 2019, claiming Twitch was hindering his growth beyond gaming. He has since appeared on The Masked Singer and Ryan Reynolds vehicle Free Guy, and signed a deal with Adidas, so there might have seen something in it – though it seems unlikely he’ll be pursuing a musical career much further. Perhaps the reported $20-30 million paid by Microsoft to Blevins helped convince him of the merits of Mixer…
We can still see where he ranks in the Twitch pantheon by using Twitch Stats’ measure of the most-viewed Twitch channel, which is to look at average concurrent viewers over the last 15 streams made, regardless of when they were broadcast (thus not necessarily the most current figures).
By this measure, as of March 2020, Ninja comes in at 12th with an average of 43,458 viewers – so a good-sized sports stadium worth. His average viewcount, however, has been bested by individual streamers auronplay (46,454), ibai (45,983), and KEEMSTAR (43,652).
auronplay (Raúl Álvarez Genes) and ibai (Ibai Llanos) are the only individual streamers to feature in the overall top-10, which is other dominated by esports channels and events, and topped by the annual Game Awards, which take place in December and were watched by an average 157,357 concurrent viewers.
We might note that these top average concurrent viewer figures are down throughout the top-10 as compared to when we last took stock of these figures in early 2019.
Highest average concurrent viewers, last 15 streams, March 2020
|Rank||Name||Content||Average concurrent viewers|
|5||Pathofexile||Path of Exile||74,768|
|8||LCS||League of Legends||48,943|
Data source: TwitchMetrics
To get a more contemporary picture, here are the top-10 channels in terms of highest concurrent views in 2020, as of late March, according to Twitch Stats.
Demonstrating the power of the Spanish-language contingent on Twitch, the table is currently headed by TheGregf (a game so popular he has his own isotonic drink), who managed to log a peak of 532,868 viewers.
Russian-language content is also popular on Twitch, with csgomc_ru taking second place – albeit some distance behind TheGregf. And if further proof was needed of the international diversity of Twitch’s appeal, third-place Elraenn (349,875) is a Turkish influencer…
ESL_CSGO is the highest English-language channel to feature in this list, registering a peak of 317,245.
Highest peak concurrent Twitch views, 2020 (March)
|Rank||Name||Content||Peak concurrent views|
|2||csgomc_ru||Counter Strike: Global Offensive||370,680|
|4||ESL_CSGO||Counter Strike: Global Offensive||317,245|
|6||LCS||League of Legends||213,232|
|7||LEC||League of Legends||172,649|
Data source: Twitch Stats
To close this section, let’s take a look at the most-followed accounts on Twitch.
Ninja previously topped this list by some way, with 14.7 million followers. He has been joined on Mixer by shroud, aka Michael Grzesiek, whose 7 million followers would have put him into third place at the time of writing (late March 2020).
This means that first place goes to Tfue (Turner Tenney) – a controversial figure, prone to using racial slurs in his streams. Nonetheless he claims 7.7 million followers for his Fortnite-centric channel. Second place goes to Myth (Ali Kabbani, another Fortnite player), with 5.7 million, and third to Riot Games’ brand account (League of Legends), with 4.3 million followers.
This list is notable for being the first time we see the inclusion of a female gamer, pokimane (in eighth place with 4.1 million followers. Imane Anys streams a variety of games.
Most-followed active accounts on Twitch
Data source: Social Blade
A story on Kotaku reveals that there may be some underhand tactics at play when it comes to Twitch statistics concerning viewership. Namely that formerly Twitch-owned Gamepedia autoplayed streams from Twitch onto pages concerning the game in question. Naturally this inflates the number of viewers with junk views, and is a potentially thorny issue when it comes to advertising pitches.
After the acquisition by Amazon, Twitch began to allow non-gaming content through Twitch Creative. Twitch has reportedly pursued a number of celebrities (including Will Smith) and online influencers to in order to expand beyond game content, and ultimately challenge YouTube as a content platform. Many high-profile celebrities can be found posting on Twitch, including Steve Aoki, deadmau5, and Juju Smith-Schuster, alongside those who have made the platform their own, such as comedians Limmy and Simon Talbot.
Keeping top talent on board has proved a challenge for Twitch in light of competition from rival streaming platforms. Microsoft’s Mixer has proven to be a particularly big draw, with Gothalion (million followers on Twitch), joining Ninja and Shroud on the young platform.
Others have left for YouTube, including CouRage (2 million followers) in November 2019, or Facebook Gaming, like Disgusted Toast (1 million followers). In light of this, Twitch has signed lucrative contracts with some of its top streamers, including a high-profile deal with DrLupo, TimTheTatman, and Lirik in December 2019.
Twitch has also won the rights to stream minor NBA games, USA international basketball games, and the NFL’s Thursday Night Football – diversifying from the world of gaming.
While YouTube massively outstrips Twitch in terms of viewers (2 billion monthly viewers to 140 million at last count), the smaller rival is clearly seen as enough of a threat that YouTube has offered content creators big money to stay exclusive as well as defect.
The Verge reports, however, that YouTube need not fear too much as of yet – as many of its big stars who have tried out Twitch continue to prefer the Alphabet (Google) owned streaming behemoth. The latter, the piece notes is better suited to produced and edited videos, compared to Twitch’s livestreaming and constant interaction with viewers.
YouTube closed down its standalone gaming app in 2018, bring live gaming streaming into its main app.
More recently Facebook Gaming is reported to offer much better payouts for gamers than rival platforms. Facebook offers revenue to who stream through its Gaming Creator program through a partner program which pays creators, with an additional tipping-based revenue stream – as offered by Twitch.
Mixer obviously has some appeal also, with the amount of content on the platform reportedly tripling in the wake of Ninja’s defection to the platform. This, however, was not reflected in viewing figures, which actually declined in this same period.
Indeed, if we use average concurrent viewers as our measure, we can see that Mixer lags some distance behind both YouTube Gaming Live (with stats for the latter measured only from 2019, as YouTube game streaming was brought back into the main app) and Twitch, with a mere 38,000 average concurrent viewers as of Q4 2019. We might note that this is the second consecutive quarter in which a decline was registered in this metric, after reaching a high point of 46,000 in Q2 2019.
As of Q4 2019, average concurrent Twitch viewers numbered 1.05 million, compared to 0.42 million for YouTube Gaming Live. Twitch continues to enjoy its long-held lead in this metric, but we might note that Q4 saw both a significant dip in average concurrent Twitch viewers, and an increase in YouTube Gaming Live average concurrent viewers.
Indeed, a ratio that stood at 1:4 at the start of 2019 now looks set to narrow to 1:2.
Average concurrent viewers: Twitch vs. YouTube Gaming Live vs. Mixer, Q1 2018 – Q4 2019
Data source: NewZoo
As we mentioned above, streamers have flocked to Mixer, even if viewers have not. Indeed, as of Q3 2019, more unique channels were active on Microsoft’s platform than on Twitch, with 3.9 million to the latter’s 3.8 million. Certainly, much of this can be credited this to Ninja’s defection in Q3 2019. By Q4, however, the status quo has been restored, with Twitch counting 3.7 million active channels to Mixer’s 3.6 million.
YouTube lags some way behind, at around the 0.9 million mark over the second half of 2019. Q4 at the very least saw an increase in this metric for YouTube, with the previous two quarters seeing a decline in the average number of active channels. Perhaps we might ascribe this to a trailing off of interest after the initial launch for streamers or unfavourable algorithm for smaller broadcasters. This does, however, lessen competition for eyeballs.
Unique active channels: Twitch vs. YouTube Gaming Live vs. Mixer, Q1 2018 – Q4 2019
Data source: NewZoo
That leads us to average viewer count per channel. Here, we see the benefit of a lower number of streamers, with YouTube laying claim to by far the best figure of 74, compared with Twitch’s 28 in Q4 2019. Mixer isn’t even in the mix, with a paltry three viewers per channel on average.
YouTube’s average viewers per channel has been increasing, with every quarter in 2019 registering an increase in the stat, while Twitch has remained relatively consistent. YouTube’s mixture of a high number of viewers with a relatively low (and even declining) number of active channels means that broadcasters stand a better chance of attracting higher numbers of viewers.
The opposite applies to Mixer, however, where the influx of new streamers without the audience numbers to sustain high average viewing figures means that the last two quarters of 2019 saw much-reduced figures.
The figures given here are mean averages, so there will be considerable variation between top streamers and Joe Average. Indeed, the phenomenon of channels broadcasting to no one on Twitch has been well documented. No doubt this is the case on each of these platforms. There must be a reason why streamers are leaving YouTube, after all…
Average concurrent viewers: Twitch vs. YouTube Gaming Live vs. Mixer, Q1 2018 – Q4 2019
Data source: NewZoo
Twitch and esports
As well as the intimate format of watching single streamers play game while chatting to viewers, the rise of Twitch is closely tied with the growing esports industry. Esports represent, in short, the professionalisation of videogame playing. Some of the most eye-catching Twitch statistics fall into this category.
TwitchCon 2018 hosted the finals of Fortnite’s Fall Skirmish tournament, which saw a total of $10 million in prize money distributed among the winners. Over four million unique viewers tuned in to watch tournament content, which cumulatively weighed in at over 24 hours. This was vastly eclipsed by the 2017 LoL (League of Legends) tournament, which 106.2 million viewers tuned into to watch competitors compete for $4.9 million.
The current record for concurrent Twitch viewership was set by the League of Legends Worlds in November 2019 – with 1.7 million concurrent viewers at one stage (see Twitch Usage Statistics for more records).
These above are by no means the biggest prize pots available in esports. The Dota 2-based International 2018, for instance, saw $25.5 million in prize money up for grabs, and was watched by 15 million people, on platforms including Twitch, in August 2018. This 2019 edition saw this figure increased to $34 million. To date (April 2020) this is the biggest prize ever offered.
In terms of prize money alone, the biggest esports tournaments compete with many prestigious tournaments in the world of traditional sports.
Esports prize pots vs. traditional sport
Source: Washington Post
It should be noted that 1.2 million of the 15 million International 2018 viewers were Chinese – highlighting the potential damage to the Twitch userbase from the loss of this market.
Newzoo figures quoted by Statista show that the Asia-Pacific region is home to 57% of the global esports audience. This is followed by Europe at 16%, and North America on 12%.
Since 2012, VC investment into the esports sector has increased exponentially. By May 2018, investment nearly matched the entire year of 2017 – which itself represented a $15 million increase on the 2016.
It is estimated that esports investment was around the $1 billion mark over 2019.
VC activity in esport sector
This rise in popularity has been matched by money. Newzoo estimates global esports industry revenue is set to top $1 billion over 2020, climbing to over $1.5 billion by 2020. Notably China will contribute a third of esports revenue in 2020 ($385 million).
Esports industry revenue 2018 – 2023
Growth in esports revenue is predicated on audience growth. It’s estimated that the global esports audience will grow to nearly 500 million over 2020, and then to 646 million by 2023.
While casual viewers may outnumber enthusiasts, we might note that the latter account for a significant share of the total – no less than 45%. Interestingly, the proportion of enthusiasts is growing. We might have expected casual viewers to increase as esports become more mainstream, but it seems a greater proportion of growth is driven by ‘serious’ esports enthusiasts.
Esports audience, predicted growth
Source: Newzoo via VentureBeat
In the US, this audience is primarily aged 18-34 (62%), according to Activate stats, quoted in Business Insider in late 2018.
For many young people, these sports are more compelling than traditional games. 56% of 13-21 year-old men believed that esports were relevant to them, compared with 44% for traditional sports. A report from Interpret estimated that around the same time female viewers accounted for 30.4% of the esports audience – up 6.5% on 2016’s figure.
Remaining focused on the US – esports are predicted to overtake everything except the NFL in terms of audience numbers by 2021.
US esports audience vs. traditional sports
Source: Syracuse University
Globally, if esports were to reach 1 billion viewers, that would put them on a par with tennis, according to World Atlas statistics, as the fourth-most popular sport in the world. Only football (soccer) on 4 billion, cricket on 2.5 billion, and field hockey on 2 billion would be more popular.
So, what stake does Twitch have in the growth of esports? Well, although esports tournaments regularly fill huge real-life stadia usually reserved for pop royalty or high-profile sporting events, the largest share of viewing takes place online. According to Newzoo, Twitch commands a 12% share of the market, compared to 8% held by YouTube (these statistics pertain to Q1 2018).
More recently, Stream Hachet conducted an analysis over a few days over which several esports events took place. This found that 70% of average minute audience went to Twitch.
20% of YouTube’s share came from the Call of Duty League. This is part of a deal signed with Activision Blizzard, which will see YouTube own exclusive streaming rights to the Call of Duty League, the Overwatch League, and Hearthstone tournaments. Clearly, then, it is already paying dividends.
Twitch had previously also signed a deal worth $90 million with Blizzard for rights to the Overwatch League. Other Twitch deals include partnering with ELEAGUE for the aforementioned Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments, and an exclusive deal with G2 Esports.
Twitch Usage Statistics
In terms of total time viewed on Twitch versus rival platforms, it remains in the lead by some distance, logging 2.3 billion hours in Q4 2019 to YouTube’s 0.9 billion hours, and Mixer’s relatively paltry 0.1 billion.
As in other metrics, however, we might note that total hours spent watching YouTube increased significantly in Q4 2019, while Twitch saw a decline.
Mixer remains a bit-part player, as of this point, and with declining viewing hours, threatens to stay that way unless something changes
Total viewing time: Twitch vs. YouTube Gaming Live vs. Mixer, Q1 2018 – Q4 2019, millions of hours
Data source: NewZoo
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 saw increases in viewing, with a 15% increase in hours viewed on Twitch logged in a mere three-day period in March 2020.
Another set of stats showed average daily hours viewed on Twitch increased from 33 million to 43 million between 8 March and 21 March.
This was in the relatively early stages on enforced confinement in Europe and North America, so it is quite possible we will see greater increases logged after this point.
According to Stream Hatchet stats quoted in the Hollywood Reporter, hours watched on Twitch in Q1 2020 topped 3 billion hours for the first time since launch.
This gave it a market share of 65%, with YouTube’s 1.1 billion hours the greatest challenge to Twitch’s 3.1 billion hours.
Twitch share of hours viewed, Q1 2020
Source: Hollywood Reporter
In terms of hours streamed (broadcast), Twitch’s lead is even more pronounced, with 121.4 million hours accounting for 72% of the total. Here, Mixer moves into second-place, with a 17% share courtesy of the 28.3 million hours streamed – around double those of YouTube.
We might again note, however, the ratio of hours broadcast versus hours viewed on YouTube offers individual streamers a better share of viewing hours than Twitch (in theory at least). Mixer once again offers the worst possible ‘value’ in this department – by some distance.
These stats also give us a snapshot of Facebook’s performance. Accounting for 3% of hours broadcast but 11% of hours viewed in Q1 2020, it is another potentially high-impact channel for creators.
Twitch share of hours streamed, Q1 2020
Source: Hollywood Reporter
In 2017, Twitch reported viewers spent an average of 95 minutes on the platform daily.
SimilarWeb peg the average time spent on the site per session as 9:12 minutes, split between 4.48 pages . Alexa finds a slightly lower 2.97 pages over 5:10 minutes (both April 2020).
According to Twitch statistics from the official 2017 end of year report, 124 million clips were stored on Twitch, garnering 1.7 billion views between them.
Most-popular Twitch content
As of mid-April 2020, over 15,000 games were being streamed per week on Twitch.
Despite this variety, streaming is very much dominated by the most-popular games. The top-five titles alone accounted for 53.2% of viewers.
At the time this one-week snapshot was taken viewing figures were being dominated by Riot Games’ (League of Legends) VALORANT, which was then in beta. It is yet to be seen whether this level of interest can be maintained after the game’s release proper.
This does give us an indication, however, of the enthusiasm which hotly-anticipated new properties from revered developers can garner. The gradual release of this new title (a first look at which already came close to smashing concurrent viewership records) is clearly a major event in the games streaming calendar. No doubt the context of the coronavirus lockdown at this time helped to foster a pressure cooker-like atmosphere on Twitch.
Over the week preceding this snapshot (which takes in the Easter holidays), VALORANT drew in average of 884,302 viewers – or 31.9% of total viewers. Total VALORANT hours viewed in this one-week period came to 149 million hours.
Second-place League of Legends logged 178,021 viewers (6.4%) and 30 million hours viewed, with Twitch’s ‘Just Chatting’ section coming third on 172,699 (6.2%) and 29 million hours viewed. Counter Strike Global Offensive (121,106, or 4.4%) and Fortnite (118,871, 4.3%) round out the top-five, with 20 million hours watched each.
Most-viewed games on Twitch by viewers, mid-April 2019
As VALORANT was only available in beta at this point, we can remove some of the newness bias by looking at the most-broadcast games by number of channels. With an average of 5,178 channels broadcasting content from the game, however, it still ranked third, with a 5.6% average channel share.
Fortnite is the most-popular game among creators, with an average of 9,435 channels streaming Fortnite content at any given time over the week in question (10.2%). Call of Duty: Modern Warfare comes second on 7,874, or 8.5%, League of Legends is fourth (4,938 channels, 5.3%) and Just Chatting is fifth (3,095 channels, 3.3%).
TwitchMetrics shows that the most-viewed streamer on Just Chatting is Evelone192, who logged 3.6 million viewing hours over the 30 days up to the time of writing (mid-April 2019). He is followed by (HasanAbi) at 2.1 million hours, and allkeyshop_tv at 2 million hours.
We might note that there seems to be more variety in content being streamed than in content being viewed. At any given time in the week in question, 45.5% of channels were broadcasting ‘other’ games – that is, those outside the top-19.
On the other hand, these only accounted for 22.3% of average viewer count and 21.9% of total time viewed. We might ascribe this both to niche communities around less-well known games or simply smaller streamers broadcasting content to very small or even non-existent viewer bases.
Most-broadcast games on Twitch by channels, mid-April 2019
According to Twitch Stats, the best thing to stream on Twitch in terms of ratio of viewers is ‘slots’ – which encompasses a range of online casino type games. With an average of 98 channels concurrently broadcasting to 14,504 (2020 to mid-April) viewers, that’s an average of 148 viewers per channel.
Naturally, these viewers will not all be evenly spread between these channels. Indeed, we might note that the category is dominated by Roshstein, whose three-month average viewer count of 11,482 would account for the vast majority of viewers in the slots category. Streamers of poker games are also at advantage, on paper at least, with a mere 97 channels broadcasting to 6,814 viewers, giving us an average viewer count of 70.
We’ve excluded VALORANT, for which an average viewer count of 174 viewers per channel (265,386 viewers and 1,523 channels) is necessarily elevated by the limitations on the number of streamers who can get hold of the beta. The same goes for Mount&Blade II: Bannerlord, which at 79 average viewers (11,990 viewers and 151 channels) would come in fifth.
Beyond the above, Warcraft-spinoff Hearthstone (31,496 viewers, 238 channels – 131 average), tournament favourite Dota 2 (57,677 viewers, 687 channels – 83 average), and the modern update of schoolyard favourite Magic: The Gathering (7,532 viewers, 105 channels – 72 average) deliver strong viewer to channel ratios.
Looking back to the beginning of 2017, we can see League of Legends has perhaps been the most consistent of the big hitters. While in April 2020 its share of viewers had fallen to 6%, it was logging over 16% of total Twitch viewers as recently as October 2019. Indeed, it had been at more like 10% before VALORANT hit Twitch in early April 2020.
At the time of writing, the latter was logging a huge 31.6% of views – that’s more than the 29.6% registered by all other games (that is anything other than the top-11 titles).
Just Chatting has proved popular since coming onto the scene in 2018, since when it has tended to hover in 5-10% range. Fornite is still prominent, though has not come close to matching its 2018 peak, during which it drew over 20% of Twitch viewers.
We can also see short sudden spikes among certain games. Grand Theft Auto V saw a peak in viewership (proportionally at least) in April 2019, while the festive period in 2019/2020 saw a short-lived boost in viewership for Escape from Tarkov, which claimed 14% of viewers for a single week. It had been hovering around 1-2% in the preceding weeks, to which it came back down in the following months.
Most-viewed games by number of viewers, Jan 2017 – April 2020
League of Legends is leads the way in all-time views by some distance. Released in 2009, it has the advantage of longevity (these stats cover 2015 to date), currently counting nearly twice as many views as second-placed Fortnite (29 billion to 16 billion). We might note that Fortnite only came out in 2017, so League of Legends had a considerable head start.
Third and fourth are held by tournament favourites CS:GO and Dota 2 (13 billion each), and the top-five is rounded out by Hearthstone (10.5 billion).
Most-viewed games: All-time (Jan 2015-Jan 2019), billions
Data source: TwitchStats
Above we discussed some of best titles to stream in terms of average viewers per channel. That is not, of course, the only question facing streamers, who also need to consider the best time to broadcast.
Twitch Strike serves as a resource to help broadcasters pick the optimum broadcast time in order to attract peak viewership.
We ran Fortnite, League of Legends, and Just Chatting through the site in April 2020. The following Twitch statistics cover consider the four weeks prior to the analysis.
The top 5% of Twitch broadcasters (whales) for each game are included here, though the option to remove them was included for smaller broadcasters, and the time zone is EST. This a global snapshot, so much of this activity is likely to be generated in east Asia (12-13 hours ahead, so completely inverse) and Europe (5-6 hours ahead). California and other western states are three hours behind.
We can see below that from the early afternoon to the evening every day, content creators are pumping out Fortnite content on Twitch. Tuesday seems to be quietest day, perhaps being the day that always felt furthest away from the weekend.
They go on later on Friday night, and start earlier on the weekend. Fortnite viewing activity on Twitch, on the other hand, is concentrated in the early evening, and on the weekend – particularly Sunday.
Sunday and Tuesday are the best times to broadcast, due to the higher proportion of viewers and the lower proportion of creators respectively.
Fortnite: Channels and viewers
League of Legends streaming by creators is more concentrated around the weekend, with the days before and after also seeing a bump in activity. Viewership seems to follow the same pattern, showing a close affinity between the two constituencies. Peak viewing perhaps does, however, occur a little earlier on the weekend – which we might ascribe to non-American audiences.
Indeed, according to this analysis, the best time to broadcast to hit peak viewers per channel is in the small hours of the night (EST). Unfortunately for those streamers with day jobs, weeknights offer better figures.
League of Legends: Channels and viewers heatmap
Just Chatting Twitch broadcasting is even more dense than that of Fortnite throughout the day, with a brief evening lull on weeknights. Saturday represents peak broadcasting, with Sunday a little quieter. Peak Just Chatting viewing, however, occurs in the early afternoon during the week, with a higher concentration of viewing occurring on Sunday.
Unsurprisingly, then, Sunday is the best day to broadcast, or the early afternoon on weekdays.
Just Chatting: Channels and viewers heatmap
The current record for concurrent Twitch viewers was set by the League of Legends Worlds in November 2019, with 1.74 million viewers. This surpassed the previous record of 1.69 million concurrent Twitch viewers who tuned to Fortnite’s black hole event. The latter is notable in that these viewers were just watching what pretty much amounted to a blank screen.
The launch of League of Legends developer Riot’s new VALORANT in April 2020 nearly beat the record, garnering 1.73 million concurrent Twitch views. VALORANT did manage, however, to become the most-watched game over any 24 hour period, racking up a total of 34 million hours on Twitch in total.
The concurrent record had previously been held by the Fortnite Celebrity Pro-AM tournament at E3 2018, with 1.5 million concurrent viewers. Even the Fortnite World Cup in June 2019, with a $30 million prize pool, could not edge this out, reaching 1.28 million peak concurrent viewers.
The above events refer to single events broadcast over several Twitch channels.
The concurrent viewership records for single channels are dominated by tournament play. The ELEAGUE Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Grand Finals in 2017 (a tournament played on the aforementioned game for a share of a $1 million pot) was the first stream to record over a million concurrent viewers. This was bested a year later, when the next edition of the same tournament upped its own concurrent viewership record to 1.1 million.
These two editions of the tournament remain the only occasions when a single channel has logged seven figures’ worth of concurrent Twitch viewers. The League of Legends Worlds of November 2019 logged 0.64 million concurrent viewers on Riot Games’ channel, putting it very much among the pack by this metric (by top-10 standards).
Tournament/esports channels dominate the concurrent viewership records. Fortnite hosts its own tournaments – the figure listed here is from the Celebrity Pro-Am Tournament June 2018, also featured in the most-concurrently viewed event listed above. The two ELEAGUE records are some way in front, with the rest of the top-10 ranging from 585,000 to 698,000.
Ninja is the only individual streamer to break into the top-10 list, with the famous Drake stream. The otherwise low-profile sponjslice is the next highest, at 521,000 concurrent viewers for a stream of a boxing match between YouTube personalities KSI and Logan Paul in 2018, which puts them in 15th place.
Concurrent viewership records by channel + game broadcast, millions
Data Source: TwitchStats
The highest concurrent viewership for an individual channel was previously held by League of Legends player Tyler1, who after returning from a two-year ban for uncivil behaviour, amassed close to 380,000 concurrent viewers in January 2018. Amazingly, he had reached 350,000 before the stream even started.
This left the previous record of 245,000, held by Faker aka Lee Sang-Hyeok (a three-times League of Legends world champion), dead in the water. Tyler didn’t hold the record for long, overtaken the following month by a return to streaming from DrDisrespect, peaking at 388,000. DrDisrespect was also not able to hold it for long; the record was smashed by Ninja and his celebrity cadres (Drake, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Travis Scott) at 635,000 in March 2018.
The most-viewed clip of all time according to Twitch Strike is a clip from JesseDStreams which simply features the eponymous Jessie D waking up after having fallen asleep while watching TV. As you might imagine from a channel that normally features content of this ilk, Jesse D’s channel normally garners only a small number of viewers.
On this occasion, however, the clip was picked up on Twitter and Discord, and was hosted on other channels, with a peak of 1,500 views when first broadcast in January 2019. After gaining traction on Reddit, where irreverence reigns, the clip has gone to be viewed 3.71 million times (as of April 2020).
This bumped the previous incumbent, a visibly-distressed DrDisrespect, in the aftermath of shots being fired at his home while playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, with 3.67 million views (it was later found to be a BB gun).
In third is the far more wholesome spectacle of JurassicJunkie screaming in fright after being walked in on by his infant daughter while playing the horror-game Outlast 2, with 2.9 million views.
Concurrent viewership during the launch of Bungie and Activision’ Destiny 2 peaked at 436,000, making this the most concurrently-viewed game launch in history, until VALORANT came along.
Sources of Twitch traffic
According to SimilarWeb, the vast majority of Twitch traffic is direct (as of April 2020) – around 86.04% in total. This is followed by social sources (7.18%) and searches (6.2%).
Of the social sources, it is unsurprising that YouTube leads the way, given the complementary format of the two rival platforms. Twitter follows, with the resonance here found in the digestible nature of the clips, and Reddit comes third, with significant overlap in audience demographics.
All three sites feature in the most-visited other sites of Twitch visitors.
Top social sources of Twitch traffic
In its analysis of sites visited before and after Twitch, Alexa also finds YouTube at the top of the pile, with 20% of visitors to Twitch using YouTube in the moments before their visit (Feb-April 2020). 20.5% go on to visit YouTube after using Twitch.
Social media dominates, otherwise. Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter all feature up and downstream of Twitch, each accounting for relatively similar proportions of traffic on either side. This certainly helps us define the audience profile of Twitch users. Google completes the top-five, in second place.
Alexa finds that Reddit is the site with the greatest overlap score with Twitch (based on audience and search terms), with a score of 29.5, followed by Discord on 29.4, and Steamcommunity.com on 28.3.
Top sites visited immediately before Twitch
Twitch Revenue Statistics
Twitch was bought by Amazon in August 2014, for $970 million in an all-cash deal. It is therefore difficult to disentangle Twitch revenue from that if its parent company’s empire. Amazon brought in $87.4 billion in net sales in Q4 2019, up 21% year-on-year ($72.4 billion). Total net sales for 2019 stands $280.5 billion, compared with $232.9 billion in 2018
Twitch makes money through two main channels. Advertising and subscriptions. An estimate from Nielson SuperData pegs Twitch 2019 revenue at $1.54 billion, which compares to $1.46 billion for YouTube Gaming. We might note that YouTube is registering these figures with a far smaller quantity of content or viewers…
Back in 2016, it was speculated that Twitch could become a $20 billion company within Amazon. As it stands, this seems like a slightly overoptimistic figure, though we do not know, of course, what will come to pass in the future.
Twitch advertising revenue
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear announced in August 2018 that he was setting a $1 billion target for ad revenue.
We are some way off yet. According to insider sources, Twitch generated $230 million in 2018, and was on course to deliver $300 million over the course of 2019. The latter figure is some way short of the $500-600 million range targeted by Twitch. Total Amazon advertising revenue for Q4 2019 stood at $4.78 billion, bringing the 2019 total to $14.09 billion.
Twitch is noted for being a platform through which advertisers can get access to a hard-to-reach market of young men – most of whom do not watch traditional television and use ad-blocking technology online.
Twitch and AWS
In Q4 2019, Amazon Web Services (cloud computing) brought in $9.9 billion worth of revenue for Amazon. Total AWS revenue for the year stood at $35 billion.
AWS has been a massive asset to Amazon, driving a spike in profitability in recent years. It has been growing rapidly, with increases of close 50% in much of 2018, before slowing to the 30-40% range in most of 2019.
Amazon’s Lumberyard free game development platform is integrated with AWS, allowing developers to develop and host games on Amazon serves. This provides game developers with Twitch integration for new titles, giving them a channel through which they can foster engagement in the gaming community. As the success of games like Fortnite, League of Legends, and Dota 2, as well as Twitch itself, demonstrates, the social aspect of gaming is more important than ever. This integration is set to be a considerable boon to developers looking to build communities and longevity around their games.
The platform is yet to take off, however, with only a handful of games released or currently in development. Lay-offs at Amazon Games Studios have been ascribed to the inadequacies of the platform.
Twitch subscriber revenue
Twitch subscribers can sign up to Twitch Prime for $7.99/month, for which they receive access to various games and extras, as well as streaming content through Amazon Prime Video. They can also sign up to Twitch Turbo for $8.99/month. For that extra dollar subscribers to Twitch Turbo get ad-free streaming, access to various aesthetic profile upgrades, the ability to save clips for 60 days (rather than the standard 14), and improved customer support.
Twitch users can also subscribe at various price points to the individual channels of Twitch Partners or Affiliates, for $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99. What they get from that depends on the streamer, but will generally include access to various badges, ‘emotes’, exclusive chatrooms, and potentially ad-free streaming.
Twitch Partner/Affiliate revenue
Non-Prime or Turbo subscribers are also a potential revenue stream for Twitch. Users are able to subscribe to Affiliate or Partner channels for $4.99 (streamers may also charge higher tier-prices of $9.99 and $24.99 for more content/access). The revenue is split 50/50 between the streamer and Twitch – with better rates for high-profile streamers to encourage loyalty. Subscribers get access to various extras, such as HD video, access to archives, exclusive chat sessions, and special emojis (it seems like getting access to special emojis is a key element of Twitch’s revenue-generating plans).
Partners can also choose to run ads on their streams, receiving a cut of the revenue. It is anticipated that this will be opened to Affiliates in the future.
Through the Partner and Affiliate schemes – particularly the latter – high-profile streamers are potentially able to make good money streaming on Twitch.
Cheers are another prospective source of revenue for Twitch broadcasters. Launched in June 2016, this is essentially a form of digital tipping, made through Twitch’s own currency of ‘Bits’. These are priced at $1.40 for 100 up to $308 for 25,000 (on top of which purchasers must pay local taxes). As of April 2017, this had brought in $12-14 million worth of revenue. US Twitch users can also earn Bits by watching ads.
For every 100 Bits-worth of cheers a content creator receives, they earn $1 (1 cent per cheer), with Twitch pocketing the difference. This is not limited to Partners and Affiliates.
Ninja – real name Tyler Blevins – reportedly earns $500,000/month streaming Fortnite gameplay. This revenue did not all come from Twitch when we used the platform, as he also is followed by five million people on YouTube. Cheers from Twitch and Amazon Prime subscribers make up a good proportion of his income, he told journalists.
It is impossible to gauge total Twitch earnings, as neither subscriber count (distinct from non-paying followers) and ad-revenue are not shared publicly.
Influencer Marketing Hub purports to have a tool that allows subscriber count to be measured. This found – unsurprisingly – Ninja at the top of the pile with 52,000 subscribers (140 of which pay $9.99 tier-2 fess, and 105 on the $24.99 tier-3). Shroud, on 44,000 (167/98) in second, followed by TimTheTatMan (39,000, 130/253 – one to watch if trying to ascertain the value of a tier-3 subscription)
Regardless of the number of subscribers, there has been a huge rise in the number of people making money from Twitch over the past couple of years, with an 86% increase in those bringing in revenue between 2017 and 2018.
Twitch has acquired four different businesses since it was bought by Amazon.
In December 2014, Twitch acquired Goodgame – a full-service talent and content agency dedicated to the esports and videogame broadcasting industries. In an announcement to mark to acquisition, Twitch focused on the agency’s model, which they said allows content creators to focus on their output, while more effectively monetising their efforts.
Curse makes voiceover communications systems, game guides (including the wiki Gamepedia), and game mod platforms, around which likeminded communities of users gather. The Curse acquisition was announced in August 2016, with Twitch seemingly focused on the 30 million users it looked set to bring in. Curse was sold to gaming wiki/community empire Fandom in December, in the wake of allegations that auto plays of Twitch streams on Gamepedia were artificially inflating view counts.
Twitch announced it had acquired ClipMine in August 2018. ClipMine started life in 2015. Initially using crowdsourced text overlaid onto videos, the app moved on to embrace computer vision and machine learning to help users find content within videos. All while providing metrics on video and section popularity. Esports were a particular area of focus for ClipMine.
Pursuit, formerly known as Revlo, came under Twitch’s control in December 2018. The company initially functioned as a fan engagement platform centred on customised virtual currencies creators could share with viewers, as well as offering chat functionality. This was discontinued in 2017, with the newly-named Pursuit offering advanced esports analytics. Twitch took on the company’s team, but all products will be discontinued.
Twitch funding rounds
According to Crunchbase, Twitch has held two main finding rounds, in September of 2012 and 2013 respectively. The first was worth $15 million, led by Bessemer Venture Partners, the second $20 million led by Thrive Capital.
A platform on which people watch other people play videogames might once have been considered dangerous folly. Yet, in this second decade of the 21st century, it would be dangerous folly to ignore the rise of Twitch.
Indeed, at a time when spectators cram into stadia to watch pro videogamers as if they were rock stars, with millions of online eyeballs on top of this, watching videogames clearly has its place in the 21st century cultural pantheon.
While esports may draw in the real headline figures, it’s the intimate everyday relationships between streamers on which Twitch is truly built. It is often said that videogames are all about community – well, here’s the evidence. Twitch provides a place in which an often-maligned group can come together around the activities they love. In doing so, they have become an influential force in the online media landscape. Not to mention a lucrative one, for anyone interested in reaching an audience of young, male, digital natives.
Coming under the aegis of Amazon has most certainly changed the outlook. Twitch on its own may well have continued to pull in eyeballs and revenue, and innovated on its own steam. As a subsidiary of one of the world’s most-valuable companies, the paradigm is different, however – with Twitch positioned ultimately to further the parent company’s agenda. With Amazon offering game development through AWS, Twitch’s involvement with the industry around which it is built looks set to deepen.
We should also look out for developments outside of the gaming world. While YouTube and Facebook make efforts to encroach on Twitch’s territory, Amazon’s ambitions seem to be focused on returning fire by moving into non-game content. The Twitch universe is built on personalities – also known as influencers. With these figures inspiring the type of loyalty brands would kill to get, this seems as good a base as any on which to build a content platform.
Whether Twitch’s livestreaming format works with this remains to be seen – but as the rise of Twitch itself has proven, the future of web content is a mug’s game to all but those roundly in the know.