Justin Kan, president of Justin.tv (of which Twitch is a part), sat down and answered several of our questions about the livestreaming service. Click past the cut to read the interview!
Justin Kan: We're strongly opposed to the current iteration of SOPA because it will end the long period of technological innovation on the internet that the world economy has benefited from in the last decade. In essence, SOPA will require service providers, both payments providers like PayPal and advertising networks, to unequivocally obey any notices from corporations of copyright infringement regarding any websites they service. A single claim of supposed infringement by any party means that an entire site could be shut down with no judicial due process. For example, if a single user uploaded an avatar on TwitchTV using a photo the user didn't own the copyright for, that could be grounds to take down the entire site. This can have permanent negative effects for all large websites out there, from YouTube and Facebook to TwitchTV.
You've had huge success so far, so we're curious about what sort of growing pains come with that success.
The hardest part about growing has been making sure we can support the community in the same ways that we were able to when TwitchTV was just starting out. When we began working on building up our viewership of gaming content, a very small team at the company would talk to broadcasters and viewers every week to figure out how we could better support gaming broadcasting with features or changes to the site. We've also sent a community team to every major event. As the size of the community and number of events has exploded in the last few months, we've had to work overtime to make sure we could continue doing the things that we believe caused us to grow in the first place: taking the time to talk with community members, traveling to as many events as possible, and building the features that will make TwitchTV the best place for watching games.
What was the logic behind the decision to split off from Justin.tv with a game-stream focus?
About one year ago, we looked at the categories that were on Justin.tv and noticed gaming was a rapidly growing category all on its own. At that time, we hadn't been building any gaming-specific features. Since we're gamers ourselves (I've played my fair share of World of Warcraft and Call of Duty), this was really interesting to us, so my cofounder and our CEO Emmett Shear took a small group of engineers and started working on seeing if we could grow the gaming category. I'm happy to say he was pretty successful, and the viewership on gaming on Justin.tv started growing about 15 percent every month. In a few months, we decided it was big enough to spin off as its own site, and we launched TwitchTV in June at E3.
With all of the competition out there, how do you plan to stick out from the crowd?
We see ourselves as part of a larger gaming ecosystem: You've got broadcasters, game developers, sponsors, and of course the video platforms like TwitchTV. Our philosophy is that we want to be the best platform for the rest of the ecosystem to thrive. That means we need to provide the best value to sponsors and game developers and provide the best tools to allow broadcasters, like pro players and tournament organizers, to make professional content for a living. So far we've strived to do that. We've done things like add a broadcaster partner program that has more than 1000 partners that we share revenue with now, we've added tools for running commercial breaks within streams, and we've been testing partnering with content creators around pay-per-view and subscription services. At the same time, we're working closely with big game publishers to showcase their content on TwitchTV in a positive way that engages their community. At TwitchTV, we think of ourselves as a technology product company, so when we set out to innovate, most often we're trying to improve or build better features for the platform that will improve things for the ecosystem.
Xsplit seems to be the tool of choice for TwitchTV streamers. Do you plan to promote that further, or is there an official Twitch app or service that we should look for in the future?
Xsplit is a great tool for making broadcasting easy. We have some exciting developments involving broadcaster tools on the horizon, but nothing we can currently comment on.
Is advertising going to play a larger role, as it does in other streaming services?
Advertising revenue share is how we pay out our partners right now, and we don't see that changing any time soon. As we scale our advertising business, our goal is to be able to increase our payouts to partners, which we think is good for competitive gaming as a whole.
Do you have any plans to introduce a way for users to have more control over their pages and accounts?
Right now we are working on an overhaul of the pages to let users have more control over what videos show up on their channels, which has been a much requested feature. Our goal has always been to make broadcasters on TwitchTV feel like they own their channel pages, and we're continuing to make incremental improvements there.
What's the ultimate goal with TwitchTV? Where do we go from here?
We want to be the place you go to for gaming video. Right now we're off to a great start with more than 12.5 million unique visitors a month, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. We're not going to be satisfied until competitive gaming is as big as any other sport out there.
We'd like to thank Justin for taking the time out to talk to us! And don't forget to check out what we're up to on our TwitchTV channel!