Fwiz Explains the Challenge YouTube Faces to Grow Esports Live Event Viewership Against Twitch

Calum Patterson

As a former esports caster and host, now head of YouTube Gaming, Ryan “Fwiz” Wyatt is perhaps the most well suited individual to lead YouTube in its quest to increase its share of the esports broadcasting pie.

However, as Fwiz himself explains, the head start which Amazon owned Twitch has on YouTube is major hurdle for them, as well as balancing the risk and reward dilemma of challenging Twitch’s dominance in the esports space.

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Appearing on a recent episode the ‘Esports Salon’ podcast, hosted by popular CS:GO analyst and self-proclaimed ‘esports historian’ Duncan “Thorin” Shields, Fwiz broke down exactly the challenges facing YouTube.

YouTube Gaming has been a wholly successful venture so far, tying in with YouTube’s live streaming capabilities (similarities with Twitch are clear with loyalty badges for ‘sponsors’ and ability to donate to streamers, as well as filters by game), but it is yet to topple their rival.

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While YouTube has plenty top streamers who can attract thousands of viewers regularly, what they are perhaps missing out on is the hardened esports audience, over which Twitch holds somewhat of a monopoly.

“Twitch has a very unique model, where they are a live-native platform and live-first, and they’re just trying to grow their unique user base. They kind of groomed and started esports.

The difficulty for us is, we are so big on how many unique users we have watching gaming content on YouTube, that you’ve got to be able to justify doing licensing deals, if they are going to add incremental users to the platform.”

What Fwiz is referring to here as ‘licensing deals’ is attaining rights to broadcast live esports events, which YouTube has done more frequently over recent years, particularly in CS:GO with the ESL Pro League.

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Fwiz explains that he and the YouTube team are doubtful as to whether these exclusive licensing deals for esports events actually bolsters the “unique user base”, or are they simply forcing viewers to, temporarily, watch the content elsewhere from the norm (Twitch).

“The case is still out on: if you license this content – any content for that matter – and bring it over exclusively to YouTube, are you actually increasing the unique user base, or are you just displacing what they’re watching?”

YouTube does however hold a dominance – where Twitch dominates live esports events, YouTube’s domain is the VOD content such as match highlights and event vlogs, or as Fwiz calls it “ancillary human interest content.”

“If you are just displacing them from watching human interest pieces to just watching the live stream, it is really hard to rationalize the investment in licensing.”

Update – Since posting this article, Fwiz has clarified that his points relate mainly to the growth of esports as a genre, and believes the popularity of gaming content on YouTube already can be a vehicle for this.

You can watch the full episode of Esports Salon below, with Fwiz’s discussion of YouTube and live esports content beginning at around the 7:00 minute mark.