Nobody can dispute that we are living in unprecedented times. Verified data began coming from various streaming platforms. No doubt, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the lockdowns started the numbers of audience consuming live-streams are huge. We are focused here on user generated content, not traditional entertainment paid subscriptions like Netflix, Amazon, or Disney+.
While the industry in general see a 99% increase year to year, and there were gains across the board, they weren’t distributed evenly. Twitch - the biggest live-streaming platform - saw the most growth in terms of viewable hours, with its hours watched jumping 50 percent between March and April and a full 101 percent year over year. Twitch average now 1.645 billion hours watched per month.
Another big winner was Facebook Gaming, which saw 72 percent growth between March and April and a massive 238 percent jump in growth over last year. YouTube Gaming was up by 14 percent from March to April and up by 65 percent year over year. Mixer grew by 15 percent over those same months and 0.2 percent year over year. Mixer’s growth did not help much, and Microsoft officially closed down the service in July and migrated players and audience to Facebook Gaming. The industry’s growth, then, mostly comes from Twitch and YouTube, which are still the two biggest players in the space.
Image: Statista chart shows Twitch viewers during lockdown.
Twitch is trying to grow its non-gamer streams. The biggest growth came from the influx of musicians to Twitch. The Music & Performing Arts on Twitch saw a stunning growth of 524% in March-May, year over year, because so many acts joined the site to mitigate the impact of lost touring revenue due to the pandemic.
Many recording artists like John Legend and James Bay, cancelled tours and were unable to release new albums the way it was done before the pandemic. Taylor Swift's 8th album "Folklore" got worlds attention and an unprecedented number of downloads during its first day of release. They have used live streaming as a method to connect directly with fans over YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Image: Data showing viewership increase on Twitch music category during lockdown.
Moving forward, as companies rethink work from home policies, and schools accommodate social distancing safety rules, consumers are expected to have more leisure time, and to consume more live streaming. This trend will drive content creators to increase production and tailor their message to attract and capture the attention of online viewers.
What remains to be seen, of course, is whether these numbers will stick in the next months, as economies reopen, kids are back to school, and adults return to work, remotely or in brick and mortal offices. These numbers show just how big live-streaming can be when the industry isn’t competing with real life for audience attention.
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