Twitch, the Amazon-owned live streaming service is on track to hit 40 million monthly active viewers in the U.S. per new projections from eMarketer, up 14.3 percent from 2019 figures. Come 2023, it is anticipated the platform will boast 47 million viewers.
While the platform has become synonymous with video game streaming and esports fanatics, recent traction has been attributed to Twitch’s efforts to expand its content scope.
What is IRL Streaming?
In 2016 Twitch announced the new streaming category ‘In Real Life” or IRL for short. Taken from its name, the space is designed for users to share glimpses into their day-to-day life as a means of driving authentic engagement with viewers.
In a statement upon its release, CEO Emmett Shear shared,” What we’ve heard repeatedly from [Twitch’s creators] is that they are interested in sharing their everyday lives, thoughts, and opinions with their communities. IRL is designed to help our creators foster that kind of community interaction.”
Shortly after, it became clear that in order to help users benefit from the category, there would have to be a better system for describing content. By September 2018, Twitch had unveiled 10 new categories including Art, Food and Drink, Science and Technology, Sports and Fitness, Talk shows and podcasts, and just chatting.
“With so many streamers on Twitch, we needed to give you better ways to describe your stream when you go live,” a description on the site read ahead of the update.
“Just Chatting” Category Eclipses Video Games Views
In December 2019 StreamElements shared new data revealing Twitch’s “Just Chatting” category streams were watched more than any video game that month. Specifically, viewers tune into 81 million hours of content in this chatting, 7 million more than the game League of Legends and 23 million more than Fortnite.
This marked the first time a non-gaming category earned the title “most-watched,” marking the platform’s transition into a broader, more versatile live streaming hub with more options for the general public than just those with a passion for gaming.
Since its launch, the steady growth of Just Chatting has not only been attributed to a sustainable source of viewership for Twitch, but it’s evolved into a powerful vehicle that streamers can use to improve their brand.
What This Means
Person-to-person streaming is now exceeding actual people watching gamer streams on Twitch behavior and with it, a clear trend is emerging out of these platforms.
Lolimdivine, a Redditor who spent nearly eight months streaming to no one, is now reaping the benefits of an established community. “My regulars and I always talk about our lives, and we all know stuff about each other,” lolimdivine said. “It’s like we have our own little internet family honestly. I see these people as my friends and not viewers. We welcome people with open arms from all around the world, and we remember things about the people who can only stop by once a month. It’s really an incredible thing that Twitch can do for people’s loneliness or friend groups,” they shared in a statement to The Verge.
By allowing broadcasters to leverage existing communities through additional categories, they create a more intimate relationship with their viewers that gives them a more holistic picture of their passions and hobbies. Ultimately, this creates a valuable opportunity to connect with audiences they typically wouldn’t encounter. As a result, they’re able to successfully bridge online and in-person relationships that extend beyond niche subjects and are grounded by meaningful shared experiences.
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