Justin.tv’s Second Life

Clarity Innovation
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twitchtvThere’s something compelling, as well as instructive, about Plan B’s that take over and become huge successes and overshadow the original idea. I’ve written about other successes snatched from the jaws of failure such as the communication and collaboration platform Slack. Add Twitch to the list.

In 2007 Justin Kan, Emmett Shear, Michael Seibel and Kyle Vogt launched Justin.tv, a platform to stream live user-generated video. The original single channel was the ultimate reality “lifecasting” of Justin Kan, who broadcast his life 24/7. Later, Justin.tv would go on to add additional channels. One of those channels was Twitch, inspired by the term “twitch gameplay.”

Twitch.tv, the gaming content channel, was launched in a public beta in mid-2011. With Twitch, gamers from all corners of the globe could compete against each other in games streamed live from content creators large, like Electronic Entertainment Expo, and small, such as those created by individuals. It is, as it were, an open gaming field for all. That was just the beginning of the creative outlet geared to young adults, to date primarily male, age 18 to 34, which is probably the most desirable demographic for marketers. Twitch has gone on to stream live electronic music concerts and has become the world’s go-to source across web and mobile platforms and operating systems for live streaming coverage of competitive video gaming, which is called e-sports. Just to give you an idea of the audience, according to Wikipedia, 71.5 million people watched e-sports in 2013. To say this part of Justin.tv was a success is a business understatement. That’s not to say there haven’t been missteps along the way. But the way the young company’s leadership handled those is also instructive. When users complained that the rules had been changed without notice, co-founder Emmett Shear admitted that it had been a mistake and rectified the situation. Additionally, Twitch has hosted tournaments that have raised millions for charitable causes.

In August 2014, Justin.tv ceased operations, but Twitch.tv, by then the fourth largest source of Internet traffic after Netflix, Google and Apple, was acquired by Amazon.com for $970million. That’s some Plan B: as in “almost a billion dollars.”

Take Away: The example of Twitch.tv proves it really pays to have a Plan B.

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