Google’s YouTube is seeking to purchase popular video game streaming site Twitch.tv for more than $1 billion according to Variety magazine. Twitch, which was launched in 2011 as a gaming-centric version of the more general-purpose video streaming service Justin.tv, now attracts approximately 45 million unique visitors per month, 600,000 of whom also broadcast live video via Twitch, according to the site’s analytical data. This viewership has drawn the attention of internet video streaming giant YouTube and parent company Google, who are seeking to acquire Twitch to further expand on YouTube’s already popular plethora of gaming-related content and to stake a claim in the rapidly expanding eSports market, which drives much of Twitch’s viewership.
The potential impact of the acquisition deal goes beyond just expanding Google’s influence in Twitch’s target markets, though. It seems likely that YouTube intends to utilize Twitch’s resources to expand its own fledgling live streaming service, which launched in 2011 but was only officially opened to all users of the site in late 2013, in an attempt to draw a wider audience to online live streams of all types, an endeavor which YouTube itself has had only limited success in. That, however, could easily change if the website were able to replicate Twitch’s level of social interactivity between broadcaster and viewer.
YouTube is preparing for challenges to the deal by U.S. Antitrust regulators. Legal advisers to the company believe that the top online video provider joining forces with the top live streaming video service is likely to be seen as tantamount to a monopoly of the online video industry by economic policy officials. This is especially true given the involvement of Google, whose attempted deal with major competitor Yahoo! in 2008 was shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice on the grounds of being anti-competitive. Google is currently facing similar antitrust litigation with regards to its purchase of mobile operating system Android, making a challenge to the Twitch acquisition seem ever more likely.
The Wall Street Journal reports that talks between the two companies are still “at an early stage” and a deal “isn’t imminent.” While Twitch and YouTube have yet to hammer out the details of the purchase and the specter of further accusations of illegal monopolistic behavior looms over Google, if the acquisition is successful it could herald the rise of internet live streams as a major force in the entertainment industry in addition to bringing competitive gaming and eSports to YouTube’s wider audience.