The first time YouTube attempted live streaming, it failed. YouTube Gaming started in 2015, then Google has tried and failed to buy Twitch, and from May onwards the project was closed because it was confusing for users. “It was pretty bad. It couldn't be worse to be honest, "says e-sports consultant and broadcaster Rod Breslau when I reach him by phone. The failure struck YouTube from the race in which it had been with Twitch to win the hearts and minds of the streaming class, and it prevented the company from developing a powerful live streaming community. However, its death was not the end.
In recent months, YouTube has positioned itself for a new run. Juiced by the upcoming arrival of Google Stadia, the company's first trip to cloud gaming, YouTube is looking for talent with which to attract new viewers to its platform. It's especially wild when you consider that YouTube – the world's most popular video platform – already exists has stars with millions of followers. That, combined with the fact that the platform also has the most effective video distribution network on the internet, means that YouTube could reform live streaming in its image. That is, if it has learned its lessons from the final round.
However, the bigger question remains: can YouTube seize the opportunity?
YouTube has closed deals with Jack & # 39; CouRage & # 39; Dunlop and Lachlan Power, who together commanded about 3 million followers on Twitch. Although I am sure they are well paid, Dunlop and Power will also benefit from connecting on the YouTube scale. According to Breslau during FortniteDuring the Black Hole event, about three times as many people watched the hole on YouTube as on Twitch. According to YouTube, Power & # 39; s stream only reached a maximum of 198,976 live competitors, which is really a huge number. To put that in perspective: Tim "Timthetatman" Betar, one of the most followed makers on Twitch, drew 100,000.
More recently is the League of Legends The semi-final of the World Championship took place last weekend, with a peak of only about 4 million simultaneous viewers – a number that, according to Breslau, made the event the most viewed e-sport event of all time in the West (except China). And there were more people watching it on YouTube than on Twitch.
The difference in viewers can be explained by the difference in audience. Twitch has as a platform a community that is specifically built around live streams; The YouTube community is centered around events and pre-recorded videos. There is not really a culture around streaming on the site, or at least not much of any outside of political events and lo-fi chill anime beats streams. But paradoxically, it is also generally better for YouTubers to stream on YouTube – because that is where their audience is.
YouTube wants viewers to get used to seeing live streams on the site. In an e-mail, Ryan Wyatt, head of gaming at YouTube, wrote that part of the reason YouTube refused gaming was in his main site to ensure that live streaming was introduced to the entire YouTube audience.
Some YouTubers go to Twitch to stream live, but their viewers do not get close to what they can get on YouTube; it can be different orders of size. YouTube, Breslau says, is the only platform with & # 39; an endemic fan base with millions of subscribers for millions of creators already. And you already have a platform with all the subscribers on your platform. Translation: It is much easier to stream to the audience that you already have than it is to find a new one, because it is easier to turn fans into simultaneous viewers than it is to turn internet strangers into fans .
Here Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg is probably the best example. Earlier this year, he announced that he had signed an exclusive streaming deal with DLive, a blockchain-powered live streaming platform that has no large viewers. He has just over 640,000 followers on DLive – an impressive number, but nothing compared to his YouTube audience. On YouTube, he is the most followed video maker on the platform, with 102 million people. If Kjellberg ever streams on YouTube, where his & # 39; s videos regularly generate millions of views, the internet will proverbially break. Many of those 102 million people would receive a notification to alert them to a stream at the same time; if even 1 percent of the total audience of Kjellberg turns up, that's it a million simultaneous viewers.
Anyway, the platform itself doesn't seem to mind: Wyatt wrote that the site was "always investing in YouTube makers, even if part of their business is on a different platform." In his message to me, he also referred to the fact that YouTube actually wins the streaming wars. "Regardless of where video makers stream, they all upload to YouTube," he wrote, "and we will certainly continue to support them because every Gaming maker is a YouTube maker."
The point of all this is vertical integration. YouTube that pays millions of video makers to stream exclusively on the site is simply Google buying viewers for Stages, which is neatly integrated with YouTube in ways that encourage streamers to use it. While Twitch is trying to control the future of live television, Microsoft and Google are competing in console wars. As Breslau says, Microsoft Michael bought "shroud" Grzesiek and Tyler "Ninja" Blevins to make Project Scarlett, the upcoming console, a success. "Of course they want to make YouTube and Mixer into large platforms, but the larger technical part of it – these consoles coming out next year or two – are an important reason why this is happening."
This is also the reason why we will definitely see more big names change platforms in the near future. All this is of course good for streamers: they get a hefty payday, sometimes in the range of seven digits, just to change where they make their content. Neither is it for the platforms – for them it is as if you are paying toll with change that you have found in your bank. And for viewers, it's simple: if you like a streamer, you follow them wherever they decide to go.