We are not a news site that tends to comment on rumour or speculation but we just felt this is something far too close to the core of what we do and really deserved comment. While Youtube purchasing Twitch may turn out to be merely a wide-spread hoax, the chance of Twitch being snapped up by a big media company is highly possible in some form and therefore makes for an interesting subject.
Originally reported via Variety, Youtube (acting as the live media conduit for Google) is entering talks to purchase Twitch as a whole. This has been hinted at via various media outlets quoting 'sources close to the matter'. However, this rarely confirms much. I conveniently have sources here suggesting Twitch is considering selling their whole operation to me for a cheese sandwich, but I wouldn't trust those sources either.
Why is this smart for Youtube to do? Well their live streaming service has hardly been the most successful affair with reasonably slow uptake. Google, as a whole, have seemed to have a slight disconnect with the very target audience Twitch captures so successfully (teen and 20s males). Despite using their products on occasion (typically for searching or email), there aren't many Google products grabbing the attention of that young audience holding a large chunk of spending money.
So, let us assume the deal goes ahead and Twitch gets gobbled up by Google. What would happen? Frankly, its doubtful that much would change. While Twitch have never been bought before, they have been reasonably uncompromising in doing things their way. They do not tend to stick to a trend or move to the beat of anyone's rhythm than their own. While this can be a little frustrating for the end user, its certainly admirable in such a competitive market.
We would probably see a little Google+ integration thrown on the site, as that dead horse is well and truly flogged. We would see better and more relevant advertising placed within the site sourced via Google's own advert platform. Most profitable sites use advertising, no-one is especially keen on them, but at least they would be for that amazing new release as opposed to 16 repeat adverts for the same KFC bargain bucket. Google has much more clout when dealing with advertisers, so we could see that occurring.
One of the biggest fears attached to this is Youtube's heavy-handed Content ID system. Will people be taken offline indefinitely for playing a little music in the background of their stream? Doubtful. Twitch already has its own set of mechanisms in place to deal with DMCA requests (essentially, an admin panel given over to content providers) so there would be little call to change this. It is quite likely Twitch would remain its own separate brand (who would alter an already well-established brand within the gaming communities) and therefore operate separately.
Hopefully, some of the areas Twitch does well in will be refined. While their streaming service is undoubtedly good at its core, it has suffered from time to time from a lack of willing to have enough slack in their server capacity. Chat functionality has been known to be a little sketchy and the streaming capabilities have begun to creak under the strain for some of the bigger live events being broadcast.
Twitch could also appreciably grow from this purchase. Having a name like Youtube or Google backing you is pretty decent for business and could expose the community to brand new customers that may never have heard of games casting before. If all turns out to be genuine and goes ahead, I would predict a fairly large swell of both viewing audience and actual casters in the area of a 25-33% boost.
What if it was not Youtube making the purchase? If we assume Youtube doesn't snatch up Twitch but some other media conglomerate does, Twitch could potentially benefit in exactly the same way but at a slightly reduced level. Frankly, being part of the Google family would be the best fit and the best chance for Twitch if purchased, but nearly any halfway sensible media company could give them the extra financial and exposure boost they need to become a real household name.
However, there are a lot of barriers for any potential deal. Even if Twitch turns around and gives the green light to a purchase, there would be a lot of anti-competition considerations to take into account. Twitch is one of the highest traffic, highest media bases and flat-out most popular sites out there right now. For a site that has its roots firmly in video-based media already to move in, they would have to prove beyond possible doubt that it wouldn't hurt any other company seeking to compete on a similar level.
The most important thing to keep in mind about this whole story is that it hinges on a maybe. It is something that would appear to be a likely maybe, but with Twitch and Google keeping their lips sealed at time of publishing, no one can say for sure. But, I would not be too heavily concerned either way. If this does all turn out to be true, it seems the potential positives far outweight the negatives. This could be a fantastic growing spurt for a form of entertainment so compelling we decided to create a company around it ourselves.
Please let us know what you think by commenting below. Do you think this is likely to happen? Do you think it would be for the better or the worse?