Google’s $1bn purchase of the video-streaming service Twitch earlier on in July may have passed you by, but it’s important for reasons that lie beyond building more real-estate for Google’s ads, here’s why.
Twitch is an unknown quantity to most but to those familiar with it, it’s the predominant video-game streaming service in the world. To the uninformed, this essentially means it’s a way of people broadcasting themselves playing games to interested parties. However absurd this may sound to the uninitiated, it’s the YouTube of gaming and in a world where “eSports” viewers doubled year-on-year for the past two years, it represents a wise investment.
The logic of watching other people play an inherently interactive medium aside, Twitch has ensnared some 45 million viewers, who tune in regularly to watch some 13 billion minutes of gaming a month and all of this, of course, is ad-supported. Another massive platform with a correspondingly massive volume of impressions, to add to Google’s platforms and further leverage its AdWords service.
These numbers give some context, but what’s of real substance in this story is more in what it represents for Google and more broadly, for technology firms which grew out of the ethereal realm of the internet as a whole.
We’ve known for a while that content consumption patterns are changing, the rise of “web 2.0” and an increasingly service-based approach to entertainment, epitomized through the likes of Netflix and Spotify underscore this. In spite of this though, the idea of an “online media giant” that stands alongside the likes of HBO and Time Warner is nascent, though it will only become more prominent as network infrastructure continues to improve globally, serving consumers with increasingly faster connections.
This is what Google’s purchase of Twitch really means in the context of media history: Google have undoubtedly established themselves as a company known for blue-sky research, particularly with the buzz around driverless cars and the even more ambitious plan of airliner internet, serviced through their own satellite system. However, the power YouTube and now Twitch gives them as a media company and a provider of entertainment is something new, that hasn’t received much attention as of yet.
As Yahoo attempts to re-orientate itself into a media provider for mobile platforms, the emergence of internet media giants who can launch a sustained challenge against traditional media consortiums is something to watch out for on the horizon. Expect to see Google make further acquisitions on this front. Ultimately, if Google open their own production studio for original Film and TV projects within the next 5 years, or acquire a small, existing studio to invest in, don’t be too surprised.