The word "stream" may have once brought to mind a meandering stretch of water carving its way through a quiet nature reserve, but in 2016 it conjures up an altogether more entertaining image. Thanks to the digital revolution, the first thing people often think of when you say “stream” is a live broadcast featuring the latest online gaming action.
Of all the forms live streaming can take, individual streams featuring professional gamers are often seen as the "original" format. In fact, it was the gaming community that really kick-started the streaming revolution. Following the creation of YouTube in 2005, Justin Kan, Emmett Shear, Michael Seibel and Kyle Vogt wanted to do something a little different. With YouTube offering recorded videos, the quartet of tech geeks decided to make live streaming their niche.
Out of this concept, Justin.tv was born in 2007 and thanks to its open platform where users could watch and stream their gaming activities, it became a huge hit. By 2014 Justin.tv was absorbed into Twitch and, today, the platform has more than 1.7 million broadcasters and 100 million monthly users.
With streaming now the latest craze among gamers, entertainers and those wanting to be entertained, a selection of platforms are now starting to lead the way. In the remainder of this article we've outlined three of the leading live streaming platforms and which demographic they're most suited to.
For those into MMOs and console games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield 1, the likes of Tom "Syndicate" Cassell are on hand to dispense tips, ratings and reviews. In fact, thanks to a following of more than 2.4 million, Cassell is now the top streamer on Twitch and has almost 39 million channel views.
One of the reasons Cassell has become such a popular figure on Twitch is that he fuses entertainment and education in a single stream. Thanks to his experience as a gamer, Cassell gets access to the latest games for review, but also has the ability to break down the strategic nuances of it.
Following this trend, poker pro Jason Somerville is now blazing a trail on Twitch. When Twitch launched its official poker axis back in 2015, Somerville was one of the first broadcasters to gain a following. Thanks to his experience as a gamer and his association with the largest online poker site in the world, Somerville quickly attracted more than 190,000 followers.
Like Cassell, Somerville provides education as well as entertainment. His Run It Up series airs in conjunction with his sponsor PokerStars, which means the American pro can show viewers how he goes deep in events like SCOOP and WCOOP in order to win more than $2 million online.
If Twitch is the home of desktop gaming streams, then Kamcord is where the mobile fraternity now hang out. When Aditya Rathnam, Kevin Wang and Matt Zitzmann first devel oped Kamcord, they wanted everyone to have easy access to a streaming service. Available exclusively for mobile devices, the platform initially offered gaming clips and recordings when it launched in 2012.
However, three years and one million users later, Kamcord moved into the live streaming arena. Since redesigning its app, Kamcord has become one of the leading mobile streaming platforms where users of all skill levels can show off their exploits. Unlike Twitch, education is much less of a priority on Kamcord with the majority of streamers and viewers content to just have some fun.
Today, ChiefPat is one of the most popular Kamcord users. Since launching his mobile channel, the mobile streamer has picked up more than 121,000 followers thanks to his Clash of Clans broadcasts. Of course, whenever a seasoned gamer gives viewers an insight into their world, there's always something to learn. However, Kamcord is much more focused on bite-sized, ephemeral entertainment than lengthy streams filled with in-depth strategy. Indeed, much like mobile gaming's main ethos, Kamcord is all about "entertainment on the go."
Naturally, with Twitch and Kamcord holding court over the gaming community, YouTube has had to find a way to distinguish itself. Yes, you can certainly find gamers streaming their activities on YouTube, but beyond this niche you'll find a myriad of alternative entertainment. In fact, when it comes to more "mainstream" forms of entertainment, YouTube Gaming on mobile looks to be the current frontrunner ahead of traditional TV networks that are also joining the action.
But haven't there been YouTube live streams for years? Yes, there has. For example, back in 2012 Felix Baumgartner's Red Bull space jump had more than eight million live streams on YouTube (see the video above). This early move into the world of live streaming was almost like a test run for what YouTube really wanted to do and give everyone the ability to stream something. With everything from make-up tutorials and pranks now featuring heavily on the streaming channel, YouTube has certainly become a player in the market.
Indeed, the one advantage it does have over its peers is a huge database of potential viewers. YouTube currently receives more than 800 million unique views each month and as the streams are accessible via the main search function, it means many of these can switch from videos to live broadcasts in an instant.
When it comes to the way we consume content, things are changing. Live streaming has made our entertainment not only more accessible and tailored to our needs, but engaging and interactive. Live streamers and viewers share a symbiotic relationship and that's fostered an environment where we can learn, chat and have fun all at once. Naturally, as technology evolves and products like virtual reality come into their own, it's likely this level of interaction will increase and, therefore, make our experience with live streams even more entertaining.