Twitch has been attracting legions of hard-core gamers who have started live streaming themselves as they play their favorite video games. Many of these are well-known in the gaming world, but not exactly household names.
Is that changing? Last week, Hunter Pence, the San Francisco Giants' outfielder, joined the service and started broadcasting himself. Pence apparently joined on his own, not through any official partnership with Twitch.
For the moment, he appears to be the most recognizable athlete to jump on the service.
"He is a big gamer and fan of Twitch, so it will be interesting to see if other athletes will follow his lead," said a Twitch spokesman, who just goes by Chase. "Celebrities have embraced other forms of social media from Facebook to Twitter, so it's not that surprising to see those raised in the gaming age embracing Twitch to interact with their fans and friends. There is no better example of social video."
Starting seven days ago, Pence has done 12 broadcasts, including one from Twitch's headquarters in San Francisco. He's played "Killer Instinct" (video description reads: "Hunter Pence uses a ultra combo and does his celebratory kabbalin booty dance after.") and "Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft" (for 2.5 hours!) and "Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition."
"I'm not that great," Pence said during one broadcast. "I'm not like some epic player of these games."
Maybe. But his presence can only help Twitch as it seeks to broaden its audience. In a Times profile of the company earlier this year, the company said its traffic has grown from 3.2 million unique viewers per month to 45 million unique viewers per month over the last three years.
But the real jaw-dropper is the intense engagement of viewers. The average viewer watches 106 minutes of Twitch live streams per day. About 58% spend more than 20 hours a week watching videos on Twitch.
That's no doubt why YouTube is reportedly on the verge of paying a $1 billion to acquire Twitch.