Recode Media: Emmett Shear of Twitch

  • What is Twitch: Twitch is a service for multiplayer entertainment. Twitch lets you come together as a community and watch other people pursuing their passions and share that with everyone else who’s watching. We’re best known for streaming video games. 

  • Interactivity makes Twitch special: Before someone would produce content and some other person may consume that content. On Twitch you are part of the show. The creator is reacting to the audience. The audience is influencing the show. People start using Twitch because they want to watch something. They stay on Twitch because of the chat. 

  • The precursor to Twitch: Justin Kan and I had a failed startup called Kiko. We sold it on eBay to the highest bidder. After that, we decided to start Justin TV. It was a 24/7 live reality show about Justin. 

  • Turning Justin TV into Twitch: We realized that what we really built that was valuable was the technology that could let anyone live stream video. We had all these people asking to be able to live stream like Justin. We opened up a service to let anyone live stream. That product eventually became Twitch. 

  • Amazon buys Twitch for $1 billion: I felt Amazon was a good match. Amazon is almost unique in large tech companies in retaining founder after the acquisition: Zappos, IMDb, Audible. Most tech companies acquire the company and they just assume that the founder is going to be gone a year or two later. I didn’t really want to do that. 

  • What meeting was Jeff Bezos like: I was super impressed by his questions and by his level of insight and his ability to ramp up quickly on the information.

  • Fandom is key for Twitch: What makes the Twitch TV experience so different from normal TV is you’re together with 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 other people participating and watching this together as a community. 

  • What is co-streaming? Co-streaming is where you add your voiceover to what’s happening in the action. We have a streamer co-streaming the NFL. The co-streaming attracts a whole new audience of people who are fans of that streamer and brings them into the football content.

  • One of the Twitch company values is experiment to decide: I believe that the best way to figure out if something works is not to spend a bunch of time theorizing about whether it might work or not. Try it and see. 

  • How do people make money on Twitch: You make money in a variety of different ways when you have that audience. Advertising, channel subscriptions, cheering [tips]. People can make millions of dollars on Twitch. Entertainment on the internet isn’t really different from entertainment off the internet. The best talent can make a lot of money. 

  • The company mission: To enable creators to make a living entertaining and educating their fans. 

  • Twitch is streamer focused not competitor focused: Competitor focused is where you spend your time worrying about how do we beat their feature set? How do we make our product stand out from that product? Streamer focused is what do streamers care about? What do streamers want? Streamers want really high-quality video. They want to reach new fans. They want to make a living.

  • Twitch focuses on long-form content: One of the reasons why we have the No. 2 highest watch time in the U.S. is because it’s long-form content. You really sit down and you engage with over a long period of time.

  • What Emmet wants out of work: I want something that is challenging. I want to feel like I’m always learning and growing. I want the thing I’m working on to matter. I want to feel like I have a purpose.

  • Full podcast here.