TECH
19/05/2014 14:38 BST | Updated 19/05/2014 14:59 BST

Twitch: What Is It, Why Does Google Want It?

What is Twitch? And why is Google reportedly planning on spending more than $1 billion on adding it to its streaming video mega empire?

On its website, Twitch describes itself as a group that "brings brands and deeply engaged gaming enthusiasts together via traditional & cutting-edge advertising solutions".

Which doesn't help clear things up very much.

More simply, Twitch is a streaming video network which specialises in video games. Using its service gamers can broadcast themselves playing to literally millions of players at once, including voice commentary, and interact each other.

And it's not just gamers in their bedrooms chatting about the deep nuances of their favourite titles - it's mass media. The service hosts the world's best gamers, and many big pro-gaming tournaments and leagues use Twitch by default as a means to get their work out to large audiences. It's also the site that hosted the crowdsourced Pokemon play through which made headlines around the world (including here) earlier this year.

And we mean large. At the last (public) count Twitch had 45 million unique viewers every month, which is small compared to YouTube but far more engaged. Twitch viewers watched an average of 1 hour 42 minutes a day - and just under a million viewers were also broadcasting. There has also been a huge boost since the service was integrated into the PS4 and Xbox One since their launch in late 2013.

But perhaps the main reason Google is keen on the idea is that -- like music videos and short viral clips -- gaming is something for which TV and other media aren't great at finding space or formats. It remains to be seen if Google really will hand over $1 billion for the business, but the general reaction seems to be that it would definitely make sense - and that if Google passed, someone else would take them up on the offer.