Twitch Now Draws an Audience as Large as Network TV’s Most Popular Shows

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DecisionData Team

July 01, 2020

  • Twitch, the preeminent video game live streaming platform, pulled in 7.5M unique viewers in May 2020.
  • That's larger than the audience of mega-hit network shows such as The Bachelor & American Idol and sets Twitch as the 5th most-watched show in this comparison.
  • Viewing numbers have surged for most online streaming platforms during the pandemic but will it continue into 2021 and beyond? That remains to be seen.

If we would have told you even 10 years ago that a show about watching other people play video games would have topped the rating charts, you'd have called us crazy. During the stay-at-home orders of 2020, folks are playing and watching more video games than ever. This has brought Twitch.tv, a live streaming network for gamers, to new heights of popularity.

In fact, we wanted to compare Twitch's audience to that of the most popular TV shows on the air right now. The results surprised us: Twitch has more viewers (7.4M in May) than network TV's greatest hits including mega-shows like American Idol, This is Us and The Bachelor.

Here are the numbers for the top 10 network shows of May 2020:

America's Got Talent9.8M
The Voice8.9M
The Masked Singer8.6M
Survivor7.6M
TWITCH7.4M
This Is Us6.9M
9-1-1: Lone Star 6.9M
American Idol6.7M
The Bachelor6.4M
Grey's Anatomy6.2M

Methodological Considerations

A few things to note in our data analysis. Twitch numbers are estimated by TwitchTracker, while TV ratings are tracked by Nielsen. Our goal was to compare “total audiences” for both Twitch and a popular show such as The Bachelor. Obviously there are differences to consider here: both are on different schedules; one airs weekly while the other is live 24/7. We feel the comparison is valid because we're talking about the number of people watching. Twitch users log more hours per user than a viewer of a scripted, weekly show like This is Us, so the gaming platform might siphon even more attention from the average watcher than any show, in a practical sense.

Are the Effects of COVID-19 Driving Twitch's Rise to the Top?

Twitch has a respectable appeal by any measure but could all of this growth be temporary? The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously helping the push towards playing and watching video games more often by giving people extensive amounts of free time with their various screens. Traditional athletic sports are not available and folks are looking for something to fill that competitive void. Twitch's format also lends itself well to becoming background noise for some folks working at home (this author included!). So could Twitch be a flash in the pan?

We'll let future data decide that question, but it seems to us that Twitch has a lot of room to grow. Name recognition and market penetration is minimal when compared to that of NBC, ABC and CBS, which have access to most American living rooms by default.

Data Sources

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