Social eating trend reaches Twitch, streaming site Amazon paid US$1b for
South Korea’s 'mok bang' phenomenon, where people stream themselves eating for others’ viewing pleasure, is taking off in the US and Europe, and video-game-streaming site Twitch is getting in on the action
Twitch, the video game-streaming site Amazon bought for roughly US$1 billion, has recently launched a new channel called “Social Eating” – a place where people can watch others eat food live.
If you think that sounds bizarre, you’re not alone. Even Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear admits he’s not a big “social eating viewer”.
But there’s a clear reason he’s doing it.
For one, social eating is a real thing that’s huge in South Korea. Called “mok bang” in Korean, social eating has a massive following that’s allowing some people to make thousands of dollars every night by simply live-streaming themselves eat food.
And with Twitch growing in South Korea, Shear says he’s seen strong demand for a separate social eating channel. Now the popularity is going beyond the country, with users from the US and Europe starting to embrace it as well.
“We’ve actually seen a surprising uptick in usage in the US and in Europe which I wouldn’t have predicted,” Shear says.
But the bigger goal may be related to Twitch’s recent efforts to diversify its content. Although the vast majority of Twitch users are gamers who like watching others play games, there’s a growing thirst for other content as well, Shear says.
“The video game content we have isn’t going anywhere, and I think it’ll continue to be most of our content. But there’s just clear demand from both the creator side and the viewer side to consume this non-gaming content,” Shear says.
“W e’re going to go meet our customers where they are, rather than have some idea in our head of what they should want, which I think is an easy mistake to make.”
Shear seems to see real potential in all the non-gaming channels popping up on Twitch. In fact, he referred back to the early days of Twitch to explain where this could be headed in the future..
“I remember starting Twitch, and me being really, really interested in watching gaming and a lot of people said, ‘People watch other people play games on the internet? Who wants to do that?’” he says.
“So I’m cautious about writing anything off because just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean there isn’t some group of people for whom this is going to be exciting. So I sort of view it as a wait and see mode. I think it could be huge.”