Amazon’s weapon to fight YouTube: TV chef Julia Child

Spencer Soper

Twitch, the live-streaming site owned by Inc., will begin a four-day marathon of Julia Child cooking shows Tuesday to expand its audience beyond video game fans, signaling a challenge to Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube.

The promotion highlights an increasing number of mostly amateur chefs displaying their talents on the website, which is best known as the ESPN of video games because it lets fans follow professional gamers just as sports fans follow athletes and teams.

Twitch, which Amazon purchased for $1 billion in 2014, draws 100 million unique viewers each month. It makes money selling subscriptions and advertising, which it shares with its 2 million broadcasters streaming content on the site. It started Twitch Creative, featuring artists, chefs and musicians, in October.

The Julia Child marathon reveals Twitch’s ambitions to grow beyond gaming into new categories, the same way its parent company began selling books online and eventually broadened into an e-commerce powerhouse selling a staggering variety of products. Amazon also uses video as a customer marketing and retention strategy, offering free video streaming as part of its $99-a-year Amazon Prime membership.

Twitch focuses on live broadcasts, enabling viewers to interact with broadcasters in chat rooms on the site in real time. YouTube offers on-demand access to uploaded videos. The two platforms are converging, with YouTube adding live functions and Twitch letting broadcasters upload previous episodes to their channels.

Twitch could grow to be worth $20 billion in five years, generating $1.14 billion in annual revenue and attracting 387 million unique monthly visitors, said Gene Munster, analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. in Minneapolis.

“If you ask the average investor, Is Amazon competing with YouTube?’ they’ll say no,” Munster said. “People who are paying attention to what’s going on realize they are becoming more competitive.”

The Julia Child marathon is the second time Twitch used a long-deceased television icon to draw viewers. In November, the site showed a marathon of how-to painting shows starring Bob Ross that attracted 5.6 million unique viewers. Many were new to the site and explored other channels featuring painters, sculptors and artists, said Bill Moorier, head of Twitch Creative.

Ross, who died in 1995, and Child, who died in 2004, were selected because they were pioneers of how-to television shows who radiated positive energy, providing a soothing counterbalance to the brash talk found in many Internet chat rooms, Moorier said.

“While showing her passion for cooking, Julia Child would talk viewers through the process and converse with them as if they were in the studio with her,” he said. “This is exactly what our broadcasters are doing today, except thanks to our social video functionality, they have the benefit of engaging with their viewers in a two-way conversation.”