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Tencent Holdings’ popular video games, such as Fortnite and PUBG Mobile, are featured in its mobile-focused streaming service Trovo Live, which is in beta testing in the United States. Photo: Bloomberg

Tencent’s Twitch streaming rival is hiding in plain sight

  • Trovo Live, Tencent’s Twitch-like video game streaming service, will offer a US$30 million partnership programme to creators from July
  • Tencent, which runs the world’s biggest video games business and China’s largest social network, may be one of the few with the resources to challenge Twitch

Tencent Holdings is rolling out a live-streaming service similar to’s Twitch in the United States, making a rare foray into American social media.

The Chinese internet giant has been quietly testing a mobile-focused streaming network via an affiliate in the US since at least March. Initially called Madcat and now branded Trovo Live, the new service closely resembles Twitch in its appearance and functionality.

Beyond Tencent’s own portfolio of popular video games like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile, Trovo also spotlights marquee titles like Grand Theft Auto and Destiny 2. This week, it detailed plans on its website to entice and reward creators with a US$30 million partnership programme starting in July.

Tencent dominates video gaming and social media at home and may be one of the few companies with the resources to challenge Twitch. But the WeChat operator has met with mixed results in its efforts to build online users abroad and Trovo for now is only an embryonic service.


What makes Tencent such a tech goliath?

What makes Tencent such a tech goliath?
Still in beta testing, Trovo has gone largely unnoticed outside the gaming community. Its best-attended live streams have only a few dozen viewers at a time, though its Discord chat channel numbers more than 5,000 members. It has attracted some experienced creators from Twitch, YouTube and Microsoft Corp’s soon-to-be-defunct Mixer platform.

“Tencent being a backer for mobile creators is definitely a big upside, as they run most of the biggest competitive mobile games in the world,” said Bobby Plays, a gaming content creator with close to 450,000 subscribers on YouTube, who recently joined the nascent service. Plays has “had nothing but good experiences so far” with Trovo, though the platform operators have not directly communicated their Tencent affiliation to him, he added.

Trovo says in the terms of service on its website that it is an affiliate of Tencent’s, without elaborating. The document lists a contact address that matches that of Tencent’s US headquarters in Palo Alto, California. Tencent declined to comment.

Shenzhen-based Tencent has been actively expanding its online streaming assets in recent months, having spent US$263 million to buy control of China’s Twitch equivalent Huya in April and this week acquiring content and technology from struggling Southeast Asian outfit iflix.

Tencent bolsters lead in China’s video game live-streaming market, fending off rivals ByteDance, Alibaba

Development and testing of Trovo has proceeded under the radar at a time of increased scrutiny over Chinese ownership of social media in the US.

Rival ByteDance has been the subject of concerns raised by US Senator Marco Rubio about platforms such as its TikTok video-sharing service being “used as a tool by the Chinese Communist Party to extend its authoritarian censorship”.

Zynn – a video-sharing app from Tencent-backed Kuaishou that recently spiked in US downloads – has also been vague about its Chinese connection.
Tencent Holdings’ mobile-focused streaming network Trovo Live closely resembles’s Twitch video game live-streaming service in its appearance and functionality. Photo: Agence France-Presse

Trovo’s privacy policy notes that its servers are based in Hong Kong, Singapore and the US. But its support and engineering teams, which will have access to user information, are located in “offices around the world” that include mainland China.

Like Twitch, Trovo sports a carousel showcase of live channels, sidebars for chat with other viewers and channel recommendations highlighting the most popular active creators. It also has paid subscriptions and rewards that let viewers support their favoured streamers.

Another Twitch similarity is the tiered partnership programme designed to encourage gamers to join and evangelise the service.

The imminent arrival of Trovo comes at a moment of upheaval on the US game-streaming scene. Microsoft this week announced it is closing down its Mixer platform, which had poached high-profile streamer Ninja away from Twitch last summer in an expensive but ultimately unfruitful move.

Twitch itself has been rocked by a series of allegations about turning a blind eye to sexual harassment and abuse by some of its popular users. The Amazon-owned service has said it will investigate and suspend offending accounts.