One of the most popular stars on Twitch has been dead for 20 years.
Bob Ross, the American painter and art instructor who died in 1995, has been a fixture on Twitch since October 28, when the live streaming video platform began airing every episode of Ross’ iconic PBS program “The Joy of Painting” back to back for nine consecutive days.
The marathon was tied to the launch of Twitch Creative, a new section on the gaming platform dedicated to artists and other creative types. But perhaps surprisingly, the stunt was an unironic hit. According to viewership numbers provided by Twitch, 5.6 million unique viewers watched at least some portion of the marathon, altogether totaling nearly 545.9 million minutes of watch time.
The promotion came to an end last Friday, but it was so successful that Twitch will be keeping Ross around.
Starting tonight, Twitch will air a full season of “The Joy of Painting” every Monday night from 6 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. EST. Overall, there are 31 seasons of the series, which means reruns will occur only once every seven months.
“It’s performed way beyond what we expected in terms of numbers,” said Bill Moorier, head of creative at Twitch, who added that midway through the marathon, the live stream was receiving close to 70,000 viewers at the same time. The series finale, which aired last Friday, pulled in 183,000 concurrent viewers at its peak. That’s a lot of little happy trees.
And this was not passive viewership, either. According to Twitch, the Bob Ross channel received more than 7.6 million chat messages and 3.8 million “KappaRoss emotes” (a custom emoji of Ross).
“Bob Ross is kind of the archetype of what we’re doing with Twitch Creative — he’s the original,” said Moorier, who was the man behind the decision to bring Ross to Twitch. (According to Moorier, when Twitch was mulling over the timing for the Twitch Creative launch, he found himself on Ross’ Wikipedia page and realized it would be close to the painter’s birthday. “It was this random inspiration: what if we could do a marathon of every Bob Ross episode ever?”)
Moving forward, Twitch wants to enable more engagement with Bob Ross content among its community. Per its deal with Janson Media and Bob Ross Inc., which control the rights to “The Joy of Painting,” Twitch broadcasters will be able to “re-stream” every Monday night mini-marathon. This means, just like how Twitch users broadcast themselves playing video games, now they will also be able to do the same as they paint alongside Ross.
Proceeds from the channel, which runs ads and allows viewers to subscribe, will be split among Janson Media and Bob Ross Inc., art charity Root Division, cancer charity St. Jude and Twitch, which will use it to support the Twitch Creative community, the company said.