Twitch Content Director Lewis Mitchell on the creator economy and the Twitch space

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Twitch Content Director Lewis Mitchell on the creator economy and the Twitch space

Words by Benjamin Lamb

The "future of entertainment" — from casual gaming and esports to watch parties, live music concerts, and more!

Twitch is a social media website that allows live streamers from all around the world to connect with viewers on a personal level. Lewis Mitchell is the Content Director for the Asia-Pacific region at Twitch, overseeing content and finding the best in new and original talent.

We caught up with him to chat about the space Twitch has created not just for gamers, but musicians and arts performers of all types, as well as where Twitch is aiming to go over the next few years, and what content we will see as Twitch expands.

Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.

Mixdown: How have you seen the amount of users grow over the last few years (during lockdown)?

Lewis: I want to preface this by giving a bit of context behind Twitch which will explain our growth. Twitch brings together a global community every day to create and consume unparalleled entertainment – it’s live-streamed, interactive, content-based, and community-driven.

With so many changes in the world that have hindered our ability to connect, people have been looking for interaction and connection elsewhere. Twitch offers this and much more, bringing the future of entertainment — from casual gaming and esports to watch parties, live music concerts, and more. What we find on Twitch is that people come for the entertainment, but they stay for the community. Our users are finding communities and content that they love and feel a powerful connection with, and we expect many of these new users to stick around.

The way we’ve tracked our growth is through viewership and the number of channels going live, which we saw record highs in hours watched, creators, and daily active viewers during lockdown. To put it in perspective, in 2020 we had more than 86 times the viewership of 2011, and every month in 2021 thus far has surpassed any months in 2020 or prior. We currently receive over 31 million average daily visitors (which has almost doubled since pre-pandemic) and in 2021, over 1.3 trillion minutes were watched on Twitch. In addition, as many as eight million streamers go live on Twitch every month and in 2021, more than 15 million people decided to stream for the first time on Twitch.

What’s most interesting is seeing how that’s distributed across streamers and audiences. There was not only a significant uptick in new creators streaming on Twitch, but our overall viewership was up across a broad range of categories. It’s been incredible seeing how many people have discovered the magic of Twitch in the last few years, whether they’re a casual viewer or a full-time streamer. Twitch has always been about making connections and creating communities around shared interests, and this mission has never been more critical or more apparent.

Where do you see Twitch going over the next few years?

Entertainment consumption is changing, and we’re excited to continue driving that transformation. Our community has shown us that they enjoy participating and engaging in their entertainment and feeling connected in online communities is more important now than ever.

Of course, gaming has always been at the core of Twitch and with Australians spending $3.6 billion on video games in 2021 according to the latest PwC report, we anticipate generous growth in gaming content consumed and created on Twitch, particularly with local games. A recent example of this is the release of Cult of the Lamb, an Australian indie game that amassed a cult following on Twitch within the first few weeks of launch with over 108,000 viewers and 23,000 followers, all of whom are interacting heavily with the game via a custom chat integration extension. We’re champions of the local gaming industry, and this will continue to be a huge focus for us.

On the non-gaming side, Just Chatting on Twitch is booming – currently sitting at 12m followers, it’s the most popular non-gaming category that sees people building communities over their shared interests whether it’s politics, pop culture, books, anything! Similarly, music and sports have been taking off; live concerts and tournaments have been incredibly popular and we anticipate these not going away any time soon.

Another trend we’ve seen is an uptick in charity streams. The Australian Twitch community is especially generous in raising funds for local charities. Just recently at PAX Australia 2022, not-for-profit organisation Cure On Cancer and charity livestreaming group GenerOZity raised $40k through Twitch donations throughout the three-day event. Seeing our community come together to support important causes is inspiring and to support these streams, we recently launched our Charity tool to make it easier for creators and their viewers to quickly raise money for important causes in a transparent way.

There’s never been a better time than now to be in the entertainment industry. Our core audience, Gen Z and Millennials, are digital natives that thrive in user-generated environments and consume almost all of their entertainment online – 54 per cent of Twitch’s APAC audience does not watch more than one hour of traditional TV a day and if they do, they are usually also on a second device. With these trends in mind and keeping our pulse on what our audience is consuming, the possibilities are endless for what we can make happen on Twitch, and our team is dedicated to setting a new standard for interactive and community-driven experiences.

Besides gaming, what are some of the biggest things people stream?

While gaming will always be at the heart of Twitch, non-gaming content has quadrupled over the last three years. As mentioned earlier, our most popular non-gaming channel, Just Chatting, has over 20m followers and is exactly what it sounds like: people hanging out and having a chat. It’s the perfect example of live, interactive entertainment that builds genuine human connection and is what people have been searching for – not just during lockdown but overall.

You’ll be particularly interested to know the Music category on Twitch has also seen impressive growth. Year over year, the music category saw hours watched increase by more than 550 per cent as more musicians called Twitch home and discovered the power of multiplayer entertainment. Established artists Montaigne, Nathan Cavalerli, and Seth Sentry have built their online communities on Twitch, as well as emerging talent Eilish Gilligan and Hayzee.

Athletes such as Rowan Crothers, as well as sports leagues, are also using Twitch as a way to connect with fans. For example, with in-shelter restrictions in place during 2020, the Olympics in Tokyo were sidecasted on Twitch where streamers provided commentary on the live events alongside their communities. This allowed viewers who weren’t able to be at the event in person to watch and interact with their favourite streamers and engage with other users in the Twitch chat, creating a more interactive experience for all viewers.

We’ve also seen the rise of Vtubers since 2020, which has led to a thriving, dynamic community of creators on Twitch. The genre originated in Japan and we’ve seen it gain popularity in Western communities. VTubing content on Twitch grew 467 per cent in 2021 compared with a year earlier, which is just amazing! As the Vtuber trend grows, we’re excited to see Twitch Vtubers gain traction as full-time streamers such as ash, who is the biggest VTuber in Australia, LaynaLazar, a popular Vtuber who does horror content from New Zealand, and 2wintails, a creator who does some beautiful art on stream.

From music, sports, cooking, arts, cosplay, and other variety content, our creators are driving the future of live entertainment across APAC and globally.

What do you feel Twitch means for the creator economy?

Twitch is a place where every artist can express themselves creatively and connect with the community in a way that is only possible on the service. We have become home to thousands of independent artists who utilise our features to stream their music, foster communities, and continue making a living especially during the past two years when live gigs were off the table.

Some ways in which we’ve supported artists include: setting up customised playbooks for music that includes a guide on how to set your rig up and go live; partnering with Soundcloud and Bandsintown to give independent artists an opportunity to establish Affiliate status on Twitch; also partnering with Dolby for a Dolby On Twitch integration, allowing artists to live stream in incredible Dolby sound and give power behind high-quality sound.

We’ve partnered with Universal Music Group which allows streamers to tap into enhanced access to some of the world’s most popular music content on Amazon. We also collaborated with Warner Music Group to launch various recording artist channels and create a standalone music space on Twitch featuring premium music-centric programming and opening up new avenues for monetisation and community building. And of course, Twitch’s live chat is unparalleled in providing an interactive, engaging experience for both artists and fans.

We have industry-leading monetisation tools that allow fans to support their favourite musicians. No other service has the infrastructure and tools that Twitch does for artists to feed real-time interaction with fans and help monetise at the same time. Once the artists achieve affiliate status, they can unlock paid subscriptions, Bits to allow fans to cheer on artists, and ads where we share the revenue – all of which are linked with rewarding and interacting with their fans. When they are ready to level up, they can also apply to become a Partner, where they receive additional support.

With these tools and features, we are really hopeful that artists who are on Twitch will continue to thrive. Whether it’s an album release, concert, or collaborative community creation, there are so many possibilities for artists on Twitch and we’re equipped with the best technology for them to continue building their digital universe and monetising their work.

Check out all the creators on Twitch here.