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Making Sense of Twitch.TV

Sep 3, 2014

Credit npr.org

Why did Amazon just pay a billion dollars cash for a website most people have never heard of -- twitch.tv?

And, for that matter, what they heck is twitch.tv?

Well, 45 million people click to that site every month to watch other people play video games.

Welcome to the world of esports.

"Esports are events where people watch other people play video games," explained Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project. "32 milion people last year watched the League of Legends World Championships, including 18,000 people who bought tickets to watch it live in the Staples Center. This is a legit thing. Last year, 71 million people watched video games online."

Who are these people who watch other people play video games online and think, that's entertainment?

"About 70 per cent of the audience is male," said McBride. "About half of them are 21-35 years old. Interesting, though, when you look at the young people who are part of the audience -- the 10-15 year olds -- it's 50-50 female-male. So that's an indicator that those demographics could change."

In terms of why people want to watch other people play video games, it's as much for education as it is for entertainment.

"People who watch other people play video games are usually really into video games and they're looking at the experts to learn secret moves and strategies that will help them play better," McBride explained. "We know that a lot of people play video games -- about 1.2 billion worldwide. 700 million of them play online. That's like 44 percent of the online population. About one-in-five of those will watch other people play video games. So it's a pretty big chunk of fans."

And it's those video game fans that Amazon wants to reach by buying twitch.tv