During the last five years, game streaming has developed from a niche market into a mainstream activity and the supply of services and technology on offer has exploded. Today, some streamers garner audiences larger than big media houses, and services such as the game streaming service Twitch host millions of daily active users. While such activity is often waived merely as a manifestation of video game culture and an extension of online behaviour by adolescents, the phenomenon has begun to generate significant revenue and has managed to shift media consumption behaviour from large commercial organisations towards content created by private individuals. However, we still have a dearth in our understanding on how streamers undertake this activity and what tools they have in their disposal to facilitate successful endeavours in streaming. As this is an activity driven by individuals, are these individuals using vastly different modalities of communication, or have common trends emerged across broadcasters, as they have in traditional media? To build a better understanding of this, we utilize the existing understanding of affordance theory, and analyse the most popular elements and practices employed by streamers in their video streams and profile pages through the investigation of the 100 most popular individual streamers on the Twitch platform. The results show new aspects of social commerce that emerges from the novel forms of online business models of individual online video streamers.
Contemporary media content producers, in the form of private individuals and small collectives, have begun competing for the attention of the audiences of many larger media conglomerates (Burling, 2015; Holland, 2016), through the utilization of digital services such as social media (Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat) and digital content sharing platforms (YouTube & Twitch) (see e.g. Grundberg & Hansegard, 2014). The increasing popularity of these content creation practices have been especially evident in video content creation, which has been spearheaded by the ease of use of video sharing platforms such as YouTube (Cha, Kwak, Rodriguez, Ahn, & Moon, 2007) and Twitch, as well as the incorporation of video as an integral part of social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram (Haimson & Tang, 2017; Raman, Tyson, & Sastry, 2018). Video content creation has become an integrated part of everyday life for digital natives (Tempelman, 2017), in the form of pre-recorded video sharing through services such as YouTube, and live video broadcasting, or live-streaming on services such as Twitch, Facebook Live or YouTube Live. The term streaming refers to the larger cultural phenomenon of streaming as a form of social live broadcasting on Twitch (Raman et al., 2018; Törhönen, Sjöblom, & Hamari, 2018), rather than only the technological solutions of streaming video and sound data over the internet. Additionally, the content creators on Twitch are most commonly referred to as streamers and the content on Twitch is primarily focused on gaming and creative endeavours. Although the service is less than ten years old, Twitch caters to 15 million unique daily visitors (Twitch, 2017a), and by 2018 its monthly viewership figures have reached similar numbers as some of the larger cable TV networks in the US (Gilbert, 2018).