Rumor: YouTube To Acquire Twitch For Over One Billion DollarsFiled inside: Editorial
Rumblings yesterday began that the Google-owned YouTube is set to acquire Twitch.tv in a deal running over $1 billion.
The deal was originally announced by Variety, claiming that the deal was expected to be announced very soon. Various other sources have since picked up on the news, though reports are widely varied as to whether the deal is set in stone and to go down soon, or just in early planning stages.
As far as we’re aware, reps from both Twitch and YouTube have declined to comment on the matter.
But why should we care? Companies buy up other companies on a regular basis, and Google commonly resides in the tech and entertainment industries’ good graces. There can be no question that YouTube is one of the major contenders for video content on the web. In 2013, YouTube accounted for 18.7% of all downstream traffic on the internet.
By comparison, Twitch.tv made up 1.35% of downstream in March of this year. That may seem like a paltry figure, but considering the rather constricted nature of the videos that come through Twitch, I find that to be a pretty hearty number.
Gameplay (often called Let’s Play, back in the day) videos have been growing in popularity recently, for a variety of reasons. Busy gamers will sometimes watch streams to play the games vicariously through others. Others use the games as functional reviews, as the casual and constant nature of the stream avoids some of the pitfalls of a professional review. Still others watch them as learning experiences, adapting and learning strategies from other players.
The service has been host to some intriguing new developments and experiments of late, as well. Combined streams have allowed for competitions between streamers, like the BOILeR events, or the recent advent of the world’s first crowdplayed game, Twitch Plays Pokemon, which has thousands of players giving the game inputs. They’ve amassed a staggering 60,000,000 views on their channel alone, a number not easily scoffed at.
The growing concerns begin with the way that Twitch viewer handle advertisement compared to YouTubers. It’s rare to find people browsing YouTube for ninety minute videos, and you’ll find an ad at the beginning of the video (which is often skipped anyway). Twitch users, on the other hand, have a tendency to binge on their streams, leaving them on in the background or just watching them for extended periods. People advertising on Twitch are willing to pay a fairly large premium for their ad time.
From a gaming perspective alone, this deal might seem appealing. Twitch isn’t a perfect system by any stretch, occasionally running into issues with their upload servers, or major download problems on the user end, as happened (and still sort of happens) to European users recently. The additional (massive) reserve of resources at YouTube and—by extension—Google’s disposal could mean major enhancements inbound for the service. Google also seems to have figured out not to try to force-feed the world Google+, so it probably won’t get shoved down our throats there, either.
In a larger sense, though, this acquisition brings up some more serious concerns. YouTube can laugh in the face of most of its contemporaries as it is, and acquiring Twitch would pretty much solidify that in a much stronger sense. Twitch is practically the closest thing that YouTube could have to a “competitor”, even if the numbers have such a large discrepancy. If Twitch gets too large, it would discourage other streaming services from forming, and removing competition from the service might reduce the user experience on the whole.
Oustide of that, seeing the two services combine into some kind of super service might prompt game publishers to respond in some way. Whether this means obnoxious built-in streaming methods or weird copyright issues end up being brought up is anyone’s guess (I doubt it, myself), but is entirely within the realm of possibility.
This is still a rumor, after all. Though Variety‘s sources also claim that YouTube is prepared for U.S. regulators to challenge the deal, a bold claim to make if nothing’s set to happen. We’ll have to hope that, if the deal proves to be reality, the two companies don’t make any bullheaded decisions in regard to the service. For now, I’ll maintain a healthy distrust of the deal, I’m not quite ready to bow down to our YouTube overlords quite so completely.