Twitch’s Mike Lucero talks future of broadcaster monetisation
finder talks to one of the head honchos at Twitch to get an update on how it's trending through 2018 and the monetisation options it's bringing to broadcasters.
Twitch needs little introduction to anyone in the gaming space despite only bursting onto the scene in 2011. It provides a platform dedicated to streaming video games. Be it full eSports tournaments based around the latest blockbuster or some random gamer on their couch trying out the latest indie title, you can find it on Twitch.
There’s no doubt it has been a pioneer in advancing the way we consume gaming as entertainment and boy has it been popular. In fact, only three years after its arrival, Amazon needed to find US$970 million in its pockets in order to acquire the company. It is now integrated into the ecosystems of most modern gaming platforms and within reach of anybody.
Recently, the global director of client strategy at Twitch, Mike Lucero, swung past Sydney and we took the opportunity to catch up with him. He gave us an update on Twitch and what we can expect from the company in the near future as it strives to deliver more ways for gamers to make an income from their passion.
Twitch Interview with Mike Lucero
Can we start by talking about what your role involves?
Mike Lucero: I run the global ad business for what we call “the Rest of World.” This covers Asia Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand), Latin America and Canada. In these markets we have a combination of owned and operated businesses, and markets like Australia and New Zealand where we work with media selling partners such as Showdown (formally Spiral Media).
Can you talk us through the latest numbers the platform is delivering, both globally and here in Australia? How is it growing month on month?
ML: We have had tremendous growth in the Twitch audience and viewership in the past year. Globally our total viewership has grown nearly 30% to 355 billion minutes watched. This includes 15 million daily visitors with an average session length of 106 minutes. Locally, the audience in Australia and New Zealand is two million strong.
How is engagement changing within the Twitch audience?
ML: Engagement is changing with exciting new features like Extensions. Extensions empowers creators to make unique interactive functionality on their streams to increase fan engagement and retention. There are many great examples of how this has been done including the NBA G League (featuring stats, polling and game-trackers) and the Video Game Awards (voting). Co-streaming is also an exciting new engagement tool that allows broadcasters to bring their own voice (literally) to streams and their communities.
Why would broadcasters jump on these new features?
ML: Extensions provide new monetisation opportunities. For example, Bits – the in-ecosystem currency fans can use to tip their favourite broadcasters – work inside of Extensions, and co-streaming provides an opportunity for streamers to expand their audience. Also, In Real Life (IRL) streaming (where people stream not video games, but everyday activities) has surged in popularity and is a way for broadcasters to expand their engagement with their communities beyond the more traditional gaming streams.
You’ve been with Twitch for two years; how have you seen the platform change and evolve in that time?
ML: I’ve noticed several important trends emerge during my tenure at Twitch. The first is around our mission to empower creators to make a living around what they love to do. The core tenet for this has been creating more monetisation opportunities for creators than any other platform and to lead the charge on innovation. Since I’ve been here, Twitch has experienced a surge in innovation on this front including Twitch Prime, Bits extensions and SureStream ads. The latter utilises server-side ad insertion to prevent audiences from blocking ads.
The second area is around broadening our content offering. We have done this in the context of both understanding our audience better and understanding what our streamers would like to do. In terms of the audience, we define them as gamers. This is with the proviso that gaming is a bigger business than the movie and music industries combined, so it is not a niche audience.
We understand that gamers also like other forms of content including anime, music, cooking and fitness, so we have been catering to these other needs. Creators have responded with content, including IRL, that gives them more time to spend with their audiences. From a marketer’s perspective, this means that brands have more opportunities to reach the elusive male 18 to 34 audience that does not consume traditional media anymore.
Finally, gaming has become front and centre in pop culture. The recent Ninja (Fortnite streamer) and Drake (the musician) stream that generated nearly 700,000 concurrent users (after midnight in the USA, EST time!) is a perfect example of how gaming is now at the core of pop culture.
For those considering a career as a live streamer, how has that opportunity evolved and where do you see it shifting over the coming few years?
ML: The exciting news for live streamers is that more and more brands are embracing Twitch. They’re including the platform in their marketing approach and seeing positive results. We have seen countless brands benefit from our campaigns that pair paid media with influencer programs. These continue to prove more effective than either media campaigns or influencer campaigns in isolation.
So as a result, there is more opportunity for creators to have careers as live streamers, if they build their communities and brands in a way that works for both commercial brands and for their own individual streamer brand.
Do you pay much attention to developments in infrastructure in various regions, such as the NBN network here in Australia, and how does a development like that impact your planning?
ML: We have an infrastructure team that focuses on this.
We know that Sony is working on the PS5 and Xbox has a follow-up incoming (possibly a streaming console in Scarlett Cloud). Are these machines developed in isolation from Twitch, or are you sounded out for advice on how those systems can best position themselves to work with your tech roadmap?
ML: We have a team that has relations with all the major ecosystem partners, but this is not my domain of expertise. However, all these brands rely heavily on bringing their new products to market via marketing campaigns running on Twitch.
Can you tell us a bit about where Twitch sees the future of eSports going in regards to its broadcasting over the coming years?
ML: Twitch is THE place where most people come to watch eSports. We have seen tremendous success in our partnership with organisations such as the Overwatch League and continue to see this as an important area of leadership for Twitch. We also have a stable of eSports teams that brands can directly invest in through our sponsorship team, providing a platform for them to participate in eSports. We are seeing a surge of interest from brands in this area and will continue to build out a portfolio of top tier investment opportunities to meet this demand.