Twitch's Ben Goldhaber talks esports at Red Bull Battlegrounds
Esports is one of the primary vehicles that drove Twitch into a billion dollar valuation. Competitive gaming has a home in Twitch, with fans coming out in droves to watch all manner of esports action on the platform launched a little over three years ago.
Ben “FishStix” Goldhaber has been with the company since its beginning. As the director of content marketing he’s charged with promoting some of the best players and tournaments in the world—including the Red Bull Battlegrounds DC this weekend. Goldhaber was in D.C to sit on the Business of eSports panel before the event, and is enjoying the rest of the matches as a spectator. Now that Sasha "Scarlett" Hostyn is eliminated, he's rooting for adopted American Choi "Polt" Seong Hun.
Goldhaber took a few moments to talk about what it's been like riding the Twitch rollercoaster from the very beginning.
What exactly does your job involve and what kind of content are you marketing?
It involves all of the content on Twitch. How we present our website, how we present that on our social media, promote it on our newsletter, all that kind of stuff. So I interface directly with most of our biggest partners. Whether that’s the League Championship Series, [ The International 4], Dreamhack, basically all of the big esports events. That includes E3’s, PAX and Gamescom. My job is to make sure their presence on Twitch is optimally set up to be the best it possibly can be, as well as promote it as well as it possibly can be via our networks.
Do you do work at events or are you just here as a spectator?
This one I’m actually here a little bit more for fun. I was invited to speak on a panel this Thursday evening. It just so happens that one of my best friends lives in D.C and both my brothers came here as well. I’m just here a little bit more for fun this weekend. Nonetheless, I’m interfacing with the Red Bull folks and why not? They’re friends, I know most of them.
How did you become involved with Twitch and how do you get to a content marketing position?
I’ve been involved in competitive gaming for a very very long time. I was a player for many many years. I eventually moved on to the media side of things. So, doing more commentary, organizing events, social media and promotion. From that, I sort of became bossed with streaming. Back in 2009, 2010, when streaming was first getting big. I mean, the technology wasn’t even there at that point. Then StarCraft 2 came out, League of Legends came out and Street Fighter 4 came out all around the same time period. I could see that it was really exploding.
I actually worked on a website called GamesCast.tv, which was aggregating all of this content from all of the different platforms at the time. It was Justin.tv, uStream, Own3d and Livestream pretty equally spread around all of those platforms. So our website aggregated specific esports streams from all these different websites. We tried to create the portal to watch esports. Through doing that, it was pretty much the perfect experience.
I met everyone who was doing esports and gaming content. I had some experience with marketing and social media and I had some experience getting all these people to aggregate all of their content on our website because we wanted to get permission first. So, I basically cold emailed everyone and met everybody. I also lived in San Fransisco so a simple connection to Justin.tv was all that it really took, basically like spark to fuel. They wanted to go into gaming and I knew everyone who was creating content at that time. I’ve been with Justin.tv since a few months before we launched Twitch and the rest is history really.
How do you pitch esports to a traditional gamer?
That’s not really our job. That’s the job of people like Red Bull or Dreamhack. Really, people like Riot Games are trailblazers. They build their game with esports in mind and today its the most popular game in the world. I would say that’s no small part to their success as an esports title. So, there’s only so much we can do to bring more exposure to esports.
The core of Twitch is just being the best possible platform we can be. Making sure the streams are good quality, the channel page is set up right, promotion is set up right and that’s really all we can do. The rest is our awesome partners. There is also a direct trend of game developers supporting esports, which is one of the largest trends that has converted people who have never heard of esports before to being die hard esports fans.
Twitch was recently acquired by Amazon. What’s next for Twitch, are there any major changes coming?
As our CEO has said in many interviews, we’re not going to force anything down our customers throats. We’re only going to do what really makes sense for both companies and their customers. Amazon is very customer-centric business and so is Twitch. We’ve always been that way. Sure, we will definitely be integrating in a lot of aspects I hope, but nothing is really on the roadmap at this point. There’s a lot of obvious potential for synergy but really we’re going to keep doing what we have always done.
We want to build out on more and more platforms, we just launched our chromecast app a couple of days ago and you can expect to see more and more apps on more platforms. Our mantra is that we want to be everywhere that you play and watch content. We want you to be able to watch Twitch as well as stream it. So more SDK integrations and more apps. Even feature wise, we’re moving quicker than ever. I would expect that to continue as Amazon is giving us the ability to do what we’ve been doing but at an even faster rate.
Red Bull Battlegrounds continues today. You can catch the action on the Red Bull esports Twitch page.