Conventional wisdom about video game live streaming says that Twitch is the undisputed powerhouse in this space, but new polling from CivicScience suggests that YouTube Gaming has made serious headway. 

CivicScience surveys of thousands of Americans in mid-September showed that 36% of respondents ages 13 to 44 currently watch video game live streams on Twitch, while 22% watch live streams on YouTube or YouTube Gaming. Facebook Gaming took a distant third place with 7%.

The bad news for Twitch is that self-reported viewership of the platform among 13- to 44-year-olds has trended steadily downward in recent weeks. In the week of August 1, 43% of this age group said they watched Twitch at least sometimes; by the week of September 19, that figure had fallen to 34%.

But why? One possible explanation is the recent switch of streaming stars, including Ben “DrLupo” Lupo and Tim “TimTheTatman” Betar, from Twitch to YouTube Gaming. Another potential explanation is the recent “#ADayOffTwitch” protest (Sept. 1) in response to the platform’s perceived failure to address the “hate raids” and other forms of harassment on the streaming hub. 

Twitch users were only slightly more likely to say they’ve seen inappropriate content on the platform in 2021 than they were in 2019, but they were substantially more likely to flag it. Still, the number of users who’ve flagged inappropriate content in 2021 is less than half of the number who’ve seen it.

Twitch Users vs. YouTube Gaming Users

YouTube Gaming has a higher percentage of users under age 25 than Twitch, as well as a larger proportion of female users.

There’s also an interesting political distinction between the two user bases, with Twitch having a higher percentage of political moderates and YouTube Gaming attracting both more liberal and conservative viewers. 

There’s some cross-over between these platforms right now, but not as much as you might think. Thirty-six percent of Twitch users said they also use YouTube Gaming to watch live streams of video games.

Still, there’s reason for concern for Twitch. Even solely among their under-45 peers, Twitch users are more likely than others to use YouTube on a daily basis — and more likely to use it, period. Since they’re already in the YouTube ecosystem, it could be easy to make the switch from Twitch and join YouTube Gaming.

While Twitch maintains a healthy lead over its rival, YouTube Gaming is gaining on the live streaming juggernaut as Twitch deals with ongoing issues about harassment and top streamers leaving the platform. CivicScience will keep a finger on the pulse of the live streaming world as the situation continues to develop.