Sky News is looking for new, younger viewers on Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform.
Hunger for new and younger viewers is what’s propelling the broadcaster to branch out on the platform, which is still widely thought of as an environment for gamers, to introduce audiences who won’t be tuning into TV.
“For Sky News, we always look to tap into a market we’re not yet serving, to a group that’s otherwise not watching Sky News on TV,” said Alan Strange, output editor, digital at the broadcaster. “The mistake people make is that they say Twitch is a gaming community; it’s not. We were streaming to a community of people who are hyper-interested in news and current affairs and had plenty to say about.”
The broadcaster’s first livestream launched this week and covered the Conservative party conference, where U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out policy plans for the year ahead. It’s early days for Sky News, so currently, its Twitch channel has a humble 127 followers and nearly 19,000 views. At the time of publication, the broadcaster was unwilling to share how many concurrent viewers it had for the stream.
A team of three people moderated the comments while streaming. The comment filter was set to its highest to weed out the chatter that broke Sky News’ community guidelines, which the broadcaster also published on its Twitch channel. Aside from conversation around democracy and the contents of the Prime Minister’s speech, viewers said they wouldn’t have watched Sky News if it hadn’t been on Twitch, said Strange. The team responded to some of the comments and featured a poll. Strange couldn’t share the number of comments, which need to be measured manually.
“We want to own spaces in live news,” he added. “We turn the taps on in the big, live moments.”
On Twitch, Sky News also links out to YouTube, where it hosts shows like “Sky News Explains” (like a three-minute video charting the rise of Greta Thunberg), “Brexisplainer” (questions answered by Sky News experts) and “Divided” (a talk show also distributed on Snapchat Shows).
Sky News has been monitoring Twitch for a while because of its untapped, younger-skewing video audience. The Amazon-owned platform claims 1.3 million people tune in to Twitch at any given moment on average. The audience is young: 55% are between 18 and 34 years old. And according to a pitch deck obtained by Digiday, the audience is still skewing over 80% male, but its female audience is growing.
For publishers, Twitch represents several opportunities. As a user-generated content platform, it’s still relatively uncharted territory for professionally produced content, but it’s growing. Publishers like The Washington Post, BuzzFeed and Cheddar have been publishing on the platform and have touted the platforms’ interactivity as appealing. The Twitch team is also very collaborative with its publishing partners. BuzzFeed’s team, for instance, spoke with Twitch weekly, prior to and during its streams.
Publishers haven’t had the best luck with monetizing on platforms historically. But on Twitch, the route to monetization seems more clear cut: Twitch serves in-stream ads and takes a cut. BuzzFeed is also selling subscriptions and merchandise through the platform.
While the perception around Twitch is slowing changing, it’s still known most widely for gaming content. That’s shifting as gaming itself becomes more mainstream and the platform introduces more fitness, creative and music content.
First-movers have the advantage in standing out on a platform relatively uncluttered with other publishers, but there are hurdles. Nearly 500,000 streamers broadcast live on Twitch every day, according to the platform, so discoverability of publisher channels is ad hoc. The most popular channels — which therefore surface more regularly — for now, are mostly from gamers, whereas people need to actively seek out broadcasters like Sky News. Featuring on Twitch front page results in “thousands of concurrent” viewers, according to Cheddar.
A core behavior on Twitch is users sending micropayments to their favorite gamers, which brands and publishers are hungry to capitalize on, said Dan Wood, a managing partner at Mediacom.
“Twitch has got great attention, great engagement and it naturally has a commerce-based relationship with users,” said Wood. “Newspaper brands would kill for that endemic behavior. Twitch’s revenue is naturally diversified — it’s not just reliant on advertising — so it’s not under the same pressure as other platforms to mold the experience to the detriment of users.”
Sky News didn’t monetize its first stream, but it will continue to experiment with Twitch for events, breaking news and potentially add in more regular streams to get people to return.
“We’re not prepared to give all our premium content away for free,” said Strange. “The caution [with platforms] is, are we giving it away and not getting anything in return? We recognize not everyone will be a Sky News user on our owned and operated platforms. That’s when we make a case to go to where the audience is. Twitch is a great example of that.”