The Rise of Niche Live Streaming Services: Catering to Specific Audiences

A quick browse through Reddit revealed that this is quite the popular opinion. Unfortunately, upon logging into the site, it seems that it is on hard times with server errors and crashes being a common occurrence. This was a bit off-putting at first, but I pressed on and found that the service that they offer is quite good in terms of ease of access. This is a site that is primarily aimed at content creators who make use of the DJing service or are looking to DJ something themselves. The site’s layout is quite simple with the front page providing a list of current streams and options to join or create a stream. Once in a stream, the page layout is quite similar to the layout with the video and chat being displayed on the same window. This may be less than ideal for someone managing a larger audience, but is perfect for more intimate settings where the viewers and DJ can easily communicate with one another.

With the numerous amount of live streaming services out there, it can be hard to find your footing and create content (or watch content) that tends to your particular interests due to a large portion of the gaming streams and such often overtaking a large portion of these platforms. This is where the niche streaming services come into play, offering potential content creators a better shot at finding the right audience, and offering potential viewers better share at finding something that piques their interest. The aim of this essay is to explore a few different niche streaming services, and discuss what sort of chances they offer in the realm of social capital. As an independent content creator with a particular interest in music, I took to these services pretending to be a content creator in order to gain some insight on what it would be like actually using them. Web Dubbing a music lover’s dream. At least that is what I would say if it were more populated.

Benefits of Niche Live Streaming Services

Providing live streaming content services is an attempt to advertise various kinds of videos and reach the audience. For instance, YouTube is one of the companies that has an online video platform. Research on the online behavior of youth through social video sharing, with a case study using YouTube in Bandung, was conducted in 2013 and involved youth internet users in Bandung. This research used the uses and gratification theory and aimed to find out the audience’s motivation in consuming video/media and the impact of the video/content that they have watched. Live streaming has become one of the new ways of sharing content. According to data from a survey report by Global Web Index in Q1 2018, 28% of internet users have spent their time watching live streaming. From this fact, we can assume that the behavior when they are looking for information is increasing, which also proves that live streaming, as a new way of information sharing, is gaining good attention from the audience. With various kinds of video content that can be advertised, there are clear benefits to creating a streaming platform that is specialized in certain categories or focused on certain target viewers. From music videos, films, culinary, technology, tutorials, and many others, for both the public and businesses, creating a niche live streaming service will bring more benefits for the content owners themselves and the users.

Targeted Content

One of the often understated advantages of live content is the potential for the content to ‘sell itself’, meaning that casual viewers or those who have never seen the content before can be effectively converted into regular viewers simply by stumbling upon the content during or immediately following another live broadcast. For these reasons, it is common to see focused niche content creators quickly convert their efforts into a scheduled routine, increasing viewer retention and further solidifying their brand in that niche.

In live streaming, a content creator is most often at his best when he is interacting with his audience in real time. Many online personalities and professional gamers already maintain a live streaming schedule, and for many of them, it can be quite grueling. The delivery of live content often results in a much stronger audience connection and higher emotional investment in the content when compared to traditional recorded video. With a focused target niche audience, it can be markedly simpler to connect with viewers in an oversaturated market.

The primary advantage of niche content in the live streaming space, which is then ingested by a live streaming service and made available to an audience, is that it can be both cheap and relatively easy to produce as there are generally built-in assumptions or understandings between the content creator and his audience as to what is to be delivered. When both the above factors are combined (cost and ease of production) and considered in the context of live streaming, often a very compelling case can be made to leverage opportunities in niche content, as opposed to traditional recorded or produced video content.

Engaged Audience

What ensued was a loyal following built around the particular character. Competitive streaming services such as Gamebattles and Major League Gaming have also utilized live streaming functionality to capture audiences specific to those playing and watching competitive play of various console and PC games. Both amateur and semi-pro/professional teams have taken advantage of this to showcase team scrims and practice sessions with commentary, a feat which cannot be accomplished through VOD content on popular streaming sites.

Engaged audiences are equally important to motivated content creators. DrDisrespect of Firm Handshake Inc. explains how his streaming career began: “I didn’t have a following (ran a gfx team called ‘The SDC’) and I wanted to build one utilizing myself and the game I was playing. It was a coin flip decision considering I spent a boatload of time building up the gfx team. However, I made the right decision by focusing all my energy exclusively on a game and this silly, overconfident character I created.”

Content creators have to consider the audiences they attract when generating content. The homepage of, which serves as a hub for various channels, explains how niche content can attract niche audiences: “Whether you want to watch the pros battle it out in Starcraft, catch an improv comedy show, or take the first step in a hip hop career, we’ve got it all.” Creating content outside the realm of popular games can cause “scatterbrained” distribution of channel views, since the audience for the game being played will often not bother watching content being played in another game. Viewers often ask if playing one game over another can attract more viewers, to which the answer is yes.

Monetization Opportunities

There are several monetization opportunities unique to niche live streaming which are difficult to achieve for larger audiences. One of the most common and successful methods is direct viewer payment for content, such as subscriptions or pay per view. According to Emma Lefavour, Director of Marketing at Toad.TV, “subscribers are the most important revenue stream for us” and the reason live streaming works well for them in that respect is because subscribers are willing to renew their subscriptions if they know they can expect new, high quality, exclusive content every month. Toad.TV offers their top subscribers a VIP content area with exclusive videos, contests, and other media to keep them paying their monthly fee. Toad.TV channel operators Niche Gamer and Professor Broman also use the pay per view feature while streaming live events by setting their channels to “subscribers only” mode during the event. Pay per view is another common revenue stream for niche live streaming, with viewers being more likely to purchase a stream on a specific game or event that they are highly interested in due to the targeted nature of the product. High viewer interactivity can also drive sales for pay per view streams. Gootecks from Cross Counter TV says “…we also directly sell the viewer on our enthusiasm and passion for a game. The more passionate we are about a game, the more likely they are going to buy it to play it, in hopes of sharing the same experience with us.”

Examples of Successful Niche Live Streaming Platforms

Another popular gaming streaming site is Douyu TV, aimed at Chinese users and based in China. Douyu TV has raised an estimated $100 million from Tencent Holdings and is the largest game-centric live streaming platform in China. PlayStation 4 has integrated with both Twitch and Ustream to allow direct broadcasting of games with a special menu that is accessed by pushing the “Share” button on the DualShock 4 controller. This feature has become very popular for console gamers and has significantly increased online broadcasting. Both services also have an interactive element for viewers with chat windows next to the video streams. Viewers can ask questions, provide commentary, participate in polls, or use virtual goods in the form of chat emotes to show excitement or express feelings.

Amazon-owned Twitch is the largest gaming-focused live streaming video service and has high-profile funding and acquisitions. Amazon also bought the popular streaming platform for $970 million in August of 2014. Twitch has over 1.5 million broadcasters and is available on PS4 and Xbox One video game consoles. The site has an average of 102 minutes watched per person a day, which dwarfs the 16 minutes a day watching traditional broadcast TV for people aged 18-34. Twitch has been involved in high-profile charity events such as the Power Up Gaming Marathon.

Gaming Communities

Good Game TV is a two-man team looking to bring an informative and entertaining live stream to those interested in the Australian professional gaming scene. They are going to be utilizing the official channel as much as possible. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the community to learn a bit more about the pro-gaming scene and the direction in which it is heading. The first episode goes live at 8pm AEST, April 7th. is an advanced analytics and recommendation engine for gamers and streaming communities. Their aim is to help gamers enjoy their streaming time, while providing useful and interesting content for their viewers. By breaking down and analyzing Twitch data, they have built a toolkit of useful applications and services to help gamers better their streams or find new experiences on Twitch viewers can’t find anywhere else.

Cooking and Food Enthusiasts

A recent example of a unique food challenge is the MOONMOON_OW Stream Snipe World Championship invitational. This involved two teams playing a game called PUBG. One team had to kill popular Twitch personality MoonMoon_oW while the other team had to protect him. The competition was broadcasted on each team’s respective channels, and a point system was used to determine the victor. At the end of the game, MoonMoon_oW had to buy and eat a steak dinner, which he would stream, because the team with the most points won. This event was successful and managed to pull off an impressive $700 USD in donations.

Twitch is an online streaming service that is an Amazon subsidiary. It is unusual in that it was originally created for other purposes such as watching gaming; however, it has recently changed its policies to allow video uploads of any (appropriate) category. In recent years, virtual gift giving has become a thing with Twitch, and as a result, there has been an increase in the number of streamers who do it as a full-time job. Primarily, the food shows on Twitch are eating shows or challenges as the streamer will offer in-real-life (IRL) eatery rewards for achieving donation goals. Viewers can watch the stream and donate an amount of money. If the total amount donated reaches a specified goal, the streamer will go to a particular restaurant or eat a certain dish and stream it to the audience (This is the eating show).

For people who are passionate about cooking, there are numerous live streaming platforms that cater to their specific tastes. Food enthusiasts create media content with the goal of receiving virtual gifts, which can be exchanged for cash. Food streamers often participate in a variety of activities such as cooking tutorials, recipe sharing, eating shows (broadcasting themselves eating food while interacting with an audience), food challenges, and reviews. Furthermore, some food streamers go beyond the confines of their homes to the streets by participating in IRL streaming.

Fitness and Wellness Channels

One example is a platform named Fitocracy, where trainers can list classes, take on personal training clients, or simply have a live Q&A session with their clients. It boasts that fitness professionals can increase their income without needing to invest in more expensive technology. Another is Wello, offering clients the convenience and flexibility of working out with an online trainer at lower costs than in person. They can choose a group fitness class or work with a private trainer and never have to miss a session when traveling. Both are examples of platforms that cater to niche markets within the fitness community.

There is a growing number of internet and social media platforms that target fitness enthusiasts, trainers, and coaches who use online technology. It used to be that trainers would start a blog or post videos on YouTube and create a following there. In this day and age, fitness professionals now have the capabilities to transmit live video feeds to their customers from their smartphone or tablet. They can choose to keep the live feed public or private and choose who to transmit to. Then the viewers can ask questions in real time and have them answered, comment on the video, and like or dislike to give feedback to the trainer. This has opened up a new way to track progress and success and expose clients to a community of like-minded individuals.

DIY and Crafting Networks

Even crafting has its niche in the live streaming community, as exemplified by a website called Crafty Amino. Crafty Amino is an app where people who are interested in crafting can come together and share their accomplishments. Every day, there are craft challenges that people can participate in and show the progress of their accomplished challenge through live streaming or recorded video. Usually, the availability of the broadcasts is on and off as it is more about showing what you are currently doing and getting feedback. Users have the option to subscribe to each other on the app for an easier way to access someone’s profile and to be notified when they go live. Subscribers can also opt to receive a push notification on their phone if the person they subscribed to has started a live stream. Though it is not done through traditional websites, the use of this app to live stream still fits the criteria of providing an online-based video service in real time. It is a job focused less on the fact of being paid but more on getting constructive feedback from peers. This is only a single case; crafting of all kinds has the potential of becoming more strongly integrated in the wide world of live streaming.

Challenges and Future Outlook

As of 2018, these services are still relatively unknown in contrast to their mainstream counterparts. Most consumers are content to use free streaming services to access music and face a certain amount of resistance to changing their habits and paying a subscription fee. As a result, niche streaming services will need to employ a big marketing strategy to change consumers’ minds about paying for a separate music streaming service. They have to provide free trials for potential customers and show a comparison between their music quality and the music quality of a mainstream platform. Niches also have to overcome steep competition from substitutes such as satellite radio, CDs, free internet radio services, and music that consumers already own. If listeners in niche markets are listening to local music or music that they own that can be played for no additional cost, they are less likely to subscribe to a paid service that offers a similar but less convenient product.

Competition with Mainstream Platforms

Additionally, mainstream platforms have sought to take advantage of the market of low-budget independent films. Hulu has stated on their website that they provide an outlet for documentaries seeking to make a difference, and films that reflect and comment on culture. Offering a free submission to filmmakers, YouTube has launched the YouTube Screening Room, intended to make award-winning festival films, and invited them to make world premieres on the site, with a share in the advertising revenue. These moves mean that niche live streaming services will not only have to compete to gain a market within niche genres but also face the competition for content that is also within their scope.

Live streaming services aiming to cater to a niche audience face hurdles trying to divert traffic from mainstream platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and On one hand, the vast size and strong network effects of the mainstream are a challenge as it is extremely difficult for new entrants to develop a critical mass of users. On the other hand, mainstream platforms have recognized the market potential in several niche genres and have also invested in the production of original series and subscription video on demand (SVOD) services. Most recently, Hulu announced the addition of a documentary to their anthology of original animated films. The documentary targets fans of science fiction. Amazon Instant Video is offering to pay up to $10,000 for an exclusive online premiere for rights to a film screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Maintaining User Engagement

One issue for the engagement level of viewers, especially in North America, is the viewership time due to a majority of viewers being students in college and high school or full-time workers. With the live nature of the stream and VODs not being as appealing or easily accessible as watching a past broadcast on a service like YouTube, it is hard to catch events and specific broadcasts live. This is a problem, especially for eSports, where events have set dates and times but no guarantee for when they will finish. Oftentimes, it is difficult to obtain an exact start time for viewers with the innumerable amount of ads and pregame shows. Unlike TV, if a game is missed, there is no recording unless the stream is of a formal tournament being saved as a VOD.

A mechanism and defining feature of live streaming is the global, live, and uncut chat and interaction between broadcasters and viewers. Not just restricting to chat, Twitch has attempted features to improve interaction. The recent addition of buying virtual items for cheering to interact with the League of Legends Championship Series has shown increased revenue for the company and teams part of the league. Although it had limited access, it was a step in the right direction to further engage viewers, both casual and hardcore fans of the game.

User engagement, or the interaction between the user and the platform, is of utmost importance. This is especially crucial for maintaining repeated viewership and ensuring that users continuously use the service. Clicking once into a channel does not necessarily qualify as a viewer, but the interaction between viewing the content and interacting with other users in the chat and the community is what determines and leads to repeated use. This interaction with the service is what hooks viewers and differentiates it from staring at regular TV. It is shown that engaged viewers are more satisfied with the content they are viewing and are more likely to return.

Technological Advancements and Innovations

User adoption of new technology can also vary by demographics, and niche services can exploit technology that may be outside the current expectations of their target audience to gain a competitive edge. Overall, the rapid advancement of technology is a double-edged sword for niche live streaming services. Retaining the old when it’s already sufficient can prevent growth, yet change can create relative disadvantages and alienation of the existing fanbase.

A similar situation has already been observed with the change from ad-supported free streaming to subscription-based models on, as many smaller streamers have expressed concerns that this change will lock them out of potential new viewers who have become accustomed to on-demand viewing without a subscription. Despite the disadvantages, the lower adoption time for new technology can sometimes allow niche live streaming services to grab a cost-effective edge over slower-moving competition. This was observed by Crunchyroll’s rapid and on-time adoption of HD streaming just as it was becoming feasible for most users, a move which was a large factor in their displacement of fansub groups as the primary source of new anime.

Niche live streaming platforms have found great success within their specific target audiences, but their long-term viability and market growth face challenges due to accelerating technological innovation. The technical quality of live streaming will continue to increase, and these developing standards can create relative disadvantages for certain niche services. New compression standards, resolution increases, and future high frame-rate streaming can create large barriers to entry for niche services that often operate on a lower budget than larger competitors. Viewer expectation will also increase with technology, and niche live streamers may find it difficult to provide the same quality of service as larger competitors.

Expanding into New Niche Markets

Niche markets are a very attractive proposition for live streaming entrepreneurs. The relative homogeneity of the niche market makes it easier to understand the needs of the consumers and provide them with content that is highly attuned to their desires. Niche markets often have tightly knit communities, and there may be small but dedicated followings for a particular form of content. The insularity of niche markets provides a degree of protection from competition offered by mainstream platforms who are interested in viewers of more popular forms of content. Finally, serving a niche market can be seen as an opportunity to revitalize and recapture forms of content or cultural practices that are in decline in other forms of media.

The live streaming industry has been growing tremendously, and a significant trend that we have observed is the setting up of live streaming services specifically aimed at niche audiences. These services provide content that is tailored to the interests, preferences, and characteristics of distinct sets of viewers, thereby providing them greater value compared to the “one size fits all” content provided by mainstream platforms. Such niche markets can range from anything such as live streaming of business conferences, church services, and political events to hobbies and lifestyles such as cooking, painting, pet care, etc.

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