In a surprisingly quick and unexpected move, Amazon beat out Google and Youtube to pay $1.1 billion for popular video-streaming platform Twitch, a company founded in 2011 by Yale alums Justin Kan ‘05 and Emmett Shear ’05.
Amazon sealed the deal last Monday, quelling loud rumors that Google and YouTube would acquire the website and its 55 million unique viewers per year.
“We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster,” CEO Shear wrote in a statement.
Twitch originated as an offshoot of live video streaming service Justin.tv, through which Kan broadcast 24/7 videos of his life and allowed users to create “channels” for uploading their own live video content. The gaming portion of Justin.tv outpaced the others to warrant its own website, Twitch.tv. Meanwhile, Justin.tv was shuttered last month.
Last February, Twitch outranked web giants Facebook, Amazon, and Tumblr to become the fourth most-trafficked website in the United States and the world’s most popular video-streaming platform. It now rivals even MTV’s and Comedy Central’s viewership during prime-time, according to Nielsen.
“When I first heard about Justin.tv, I smiled and thought ‘That’s an interesting experiment, but I’m not totally sure it’s going to work,” said Jim Boyle, managing director of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, which was not involved in the creation of Twitch. “Now I feel pretty silly. I had no idea it was going to be so successful.”
Users can stream gameplay to Twitch from consoles or PCs, with audio commentary if they so choose, and speak to other users in chat room discussions. Should their videos prove popular enough, users can make money from ads and followers’ donations and subscriptions.
Twitch also broadcasts live action from gaming tournaments, sometimes in partnership with game companies. Over 20 million people tuned into Twitch’s livestream of “The International,” in which teams compete in the video game Dota 2 for prizes totaling $11 million.
“The fact that Justin and Emmett have been so successful speaks volumes to a university in growing a larger community of technological capabilities,” Boyle said. “We applaud what they’ve done, and we’d like to see [many] students at Yale replicating it.”