Not that long ago, YouTube and Twitch were very different beasts. Sure, they both did video, but they came at it from two completely separate directions: YouTube was mostly designed for longer-form video clips that people uploaded, whereas Twitch was all about the real-time streaming of video — in most cases, video games. But increasingly, the two are looking like head-to-head competitors.
YouTube recently launched a streaming game-related service that is very similar to what Twitch provides, and now there is talk of a subscription feature coming soon as well — $10 for videos with no ads. Twitch, meanwhile, is advancing on YouTube’s turf by saying it will soon offer users the ability to upload video clips.
At the company’s first annual TwitchCon convention in San Francisco on Friday, co-founder and CEO Emmett Shear announced the new features, which will include the ability to archive video and to create playlists. In the past, if a user went to a Twitch broadcaster’s page and they weren’t streaming, it just said they were offline. Now fans will be able to see archived clips and streams.
Seeing YouTube and Twitch as equal combatants in a race for market share might have seemed almost farcical a year or two ago. After all, YouTube is a massive, 10-year-old entity owned by Google (GOOG), with more than $4 billion in revenues. Over a billion active users are on the site watching video every month.
Twitch, meanwhile, was until recently just the side project of Justin Kan of Justin.tv, guy who started out filming his entire life with a primitive video camera attached to his head and then branched out. But Twitch had something YouTube didn’t: It was an early adopter in the streaming market, and in particular it latched onto a growing interest in watching other people play video games.
For a younger generation, watching live e-sports competitions on Twitch — or even just watching someone play a specially modified version of Minecraft — is like an older generation’s Monday Night Football. Twitch now has more than 100 million monthly visitors, and close to 2 million live broadcasters.
That’s why Amazon (AMZN) paid about $1 billion to acquire the company last year. And it’s obvious that the online retailer sees Twitch as a key part of its ongoing rollout of video services, including upgrades to Prime Video and a growing TV and movie operation that has been winning awards and drawing some top-notch Hollywood talent.
Ironically, YouTube — which was once the brash new video startup, dodging the copyright police and spreading the gospel of live video — is now the corporate giant, with the slick site and servers that never quit. Twitch has been the young rebel carving out a new market for video, except now it has Amazon’s deep pockets behind it. YouTube may finally have met a worthwhile opponent.