Most recently, Twitch scored viewers – and headlines – with a four-day marathon of Julia Child’s “The French Chef.” The New York Times reported that the Amazon-owned video service, which is aimed primarily at young gamers, attracted about 1 million viewers total turning into the show at some point during the marathon.
This wasn’t Twitch’s first successful throwback marathon. In February, to celebrate Pokemon’s 20th anniversary, Twitch aired a 24-hour marathon of the ‘90s cartoon series based on the video games, and reported concurrent viewing numbers reaching 72,000. And last fall, Twitch aired the entire run of “The Joy of Painting,” the program featuring the late soft-spoken painter Bob Ross whose original run aired its final episode in May 1994. An impressive 5.6 million people tuned in.
With the average Twitch user watching more minutes of video every month than the average YouTube user, the channel clearly knows something about video success.
Here are three of the reasons for Twitch’s video success:
1. Audiences are multi-dimensional. While the knee-jerk tendency is to view Twitch’s audience of 100 million as “gamers” with limited other interests, the recent successes of such seemingly divergent viewing marathons prove otherwise, demonstrating the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to analyzing your audience. In addition to these headline-making marathons, Twitch has also grown its non-gaming content byexperimenting with expansions into “creative” videos adjacent to the gaming space, including seeming non-sequiturs like painting, illustrations, songs, costumes and even glass blowing.
2. There is strong demand for recycled content. Viewers can easily consume only new media, feasting on the endless supply of novel online content. However,in our current media environment there’s still a craving for vintage viewing experiences as diverse as ‘90s Pokemon cartoons, old Bob Ross episodes and Julia Child’s cooking show. Older readers may compare the phenomenon to how reruns worked in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when everyone watched “The Brady Bunch” or “The Honeymooners” long after those shows had ended their initial runs. If you’re skeptical, look at how Gen Z-ers have flocked to Netflix for reruns of “Friends,” while many of 2015’s biggest YouTube videos were recycled from old-fashioned TV shows like “The Tonight Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
3. Audiences Want Shared Viewing Experiences. Twitch’s viewers don’t want to just passively consume content; they also want to interact. Tthanks to YouTube and other such video services, it is now easier than ever to find old TV shows and clips, but there’s a difference between finding material yourself and having someone else curate and offer it as an interactive experience for you and your community. “The Joy of Painting” has been available on YouTube for some time. Yet when Twitch re-presented it, suddenly it became a shared interactive experience. During the Bob Ross marathon, for example, viewerssent 7.6 million chat messages to the Bob Ross Channel, and, in writing about the Julia Child marathon, the New York Times noted that a “big part of Twitch’s magic is how audiences interact with each other and broadcasters in real time through a chat room adjacent to whatever video is streaming.”
The Bottom Line
In addition to treating their audience as multi-dimensional, meeting audience demand for recycled content and curating communal viewing experiences, Twitch also excels at the element of surprise. From Bob Ross to Julia Child, viewers never know what the service will serve up next, making Twitch a great source of inspiration for others who are looking to make an impact with online viewing audiences.