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Streaming Media Keynote: Twitch Streams Gaming Videos to Millions

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“Gaming is a social experience,” said Matthew Szatmary, senior video encoding engineer with Twitch, delivering the opening day keynote address at Streaming Media East in New York City. Exactly how social was an eye-opener to those in the audience not familiar with online video game culture. As conference chair Dan Rayburn noted in his opening remarks, Twitch recently delivered over 8 million concurrent streams during a League of Legends championship. The Sochi Olympics, by comparison, peaked at over 800,000 concurrent streams

Twitch live streams videos of game play, and the network grew out of live streamer Justin.tv, which debuted in 2007. When gaming became popular on Justin.tv, the people behind it asked gamers what features they’d like to see and spun gaming out to its own brand.

Less than half the people in the Streaming Media East audience were familiar with Twitch, so Szatmary gave an overview of what gaming content people like to watch. Esports, in which teams play in virtual battle arenas, is the site’s most popular genre. Competitors can get athletic visas when they come to the U.S., Szatmary noted. His own favorite category is speed runs, where players compete for points and time records.

Most people watch Twitch through a browser, but the site also offers mobile and console apps. A Kindle Fire TV app is in the works. Many of Twitch’s broadcasters stream from custom-built gaming computers, although new one-click broadcasting options in the latest consoles are opening up broadcasting to a wider group of gamers.

Sometimes, even the people behind Twitch are surprised by its success. An experiment earlier this year called Twitch Plays Pokémon connected a Gameboy emulator to the platform and lets viewers play as a group. The event received 36 million views and significant media attention. Look for group gaming to become a growing area on Twitch.

At the moment, Twitch gets 45 million unique viewers each month, with over 1 million gamers broadcasting each month. Viewers average 106 minutes of viewing per day. During prime time, the site averages 540,000 viewers, and 68 percent of Twitch viewers have decreased their TV consumption. Twitch is the fourth largest primetime bandwidth user in the U.S., following Netflix, Google, and Apple.

Szatmary detailed the site’s 2013 transition from RTMP delivery to HLS, a much needed bandwidth enhancement. Twitch delivers most of its own content.

Gaming has become a stealth powerhouse in the online video industry, taking many by surprise. While under half of attendees had heard of Twitch before the keynote, all in the capacity crowd left with an understanding of the power and popularity of gaming video.

Watch Szatmary's keynote below and download the presentation


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