Cultural Trends

4 ways brands can take advantage of the intersection of video streaming and gaming

To talk about the convergence of video streaming and gaming as the catalyst for a new culture of creation would seem like a bit like a no-brainer to many. After all, both encourage similar content consumption behaviors and drive an almost fanatical level of engagement. However, what kind of magic happens when the two collide?

That’s precisely what we set out to explore. And it should come as no surprise that the combination of the two are a marketer’s match-made-in-heaven, opening up a wealth of new opportunities for brands to reach, engage, and communicate with gaming enthusiasts in ways that could not be achieved independently through each channel alone. Through content targeting, marketers can now reach and engage the coveted gaming audience like never before. This is a pretty big deal, if we’d say so ourselves!

What Exactly Are Gamers Doing on YouTube?

YouTube Gaming and Twitch are the two online video platforms leading the pack around building gaming-oriented communities. In 2017, Zefr decided to take a deep dive into this somewhat uncharted territory, monitoring the trend of watching gaming video content on YouTube. This has not only helped us understand the different kinds of conversations and communities forming around this kind of content, but it’s also helped uncover the unique types of content, formats, and trends emerging in real-time around the gaming space. In our analysis, we’ve found that this content resides across 24K channels, representing 189K video uploads and a whopping 94B views!

We also wanted to understand what makes a platform like YouTube so unique and important in the creation of gaming communities, so we sifted through YouTube’s data to wrap our heads around the content consumption patterns most prevalent within the gaming community. To our surprise (and delight), the data didn’t just skew in the direction of millennial men. Both men and women consider watching gaming content on YouTube an “active sport.” Here are some of the most interesting stats we stumbled upon:

  • 74 percent of YouTube gamers said they enjoy watching others play games on YouTube.
  • 66 percent of women go to YouTube to hear from other gamers they can “relate to”
  • 56 percent go to YouTube to connect with their gaming community

And while this is only scratching the surface, the data is proof that YouTube has become a go-to hub for community-building around gaming that many marketers may not have ever realized.

But our analysis didn’t stop there. We dove head-first into the content itself to see what drives community and sparks engagement among one of the most passionate and diverse audiences ever. So, what gaming content is most popular on YouTube, you ask? Among total video views – you know, that big 94 billion number mentioned above – the top 3 most-viewed content types are: Live or Recorded Gameplay (52 percent), Comedic Narratives by Gaming Enthusiasts (15.7 percent), and Compilations and/or Gaming Highlights (9.6 percent).

How Brands Can Engage Gamers

Reviewing the gaming ecosystem in this way on YouTube has helped us identify a few unique “whitespaces” for brands to more deeply engage with gaming communities. 


This whitespace integrates seamlessly into the massive community of people watching other people play games. This type of content is generated by both professional (46 percent) and casual (54 percent) gamers – and because there is a low barrier of entry, we are seeing more and more of these kinds of videos emerging that cater to a specific niche or community.

The two most popular video formats in this whitespace are: One Shot (one particular feature of a game in a single video) and Series (the entirety of a game over a series of videos). The top three genres among these formats are Builder Games (i.e. Minecraft and Roblox) – by a 43 percent longshot –followed Open World Games (i.e. Monster Hunter World) and Battle Royale Games (i.e. Fortnite) at 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively.


This whitespace is characterized by gaming-oriented content layered with a unique sense of humor or an engaging point of view. The gaming audience loves to be entertained. Whether or not a specific game is humorous by nature, this kind of video content shines a spotlight on the personalities of gamers and reviewers. The most engaging content tends to have a slightly comedic undertone. This comes as no surprise as humor helps to break up the stress, anxiety, and emotions that results from intense game play.

The most popular video formats are: Animated Comedies (mini “soap operas” that use characters from popular games to create new narratives); CosPlay Comedies (creative interpretations or scenes from popular games, via live action or 3D modeling); and Real World Comedies (memes that blur the lines between real life and video games, turning everyday scenarios into a more game-like experience with digital overlays and other gaming features). Whether produced by YouTube creators or niche production companies, the content tends to be high quality and, as a result, highly engaging.


This whitespace leverages the community-building zeitgeist fueled by popular or trending video game titles. In other words, it’s an opportunity for brands to create content or engage in conversations around the games that players are talking about most, which currently revolves around top Battle Royale Games (i.e. Fortnite, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds) and Open World Genre Games (i.e. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Marvel’s Spiderman).


This whitespace explores the communities forming around real-time e-Sports coverage – and is a sub-category of the YouTube Gaming ecosystem all onto its own. With 52K channels, 242K videos, 2.9B views, 45.5M engagements, YouTube has challenged the once dominant position of rivals Twitch and Smashcast (formely, Azubu) in the e-Sports domain – with League of Legends commanding more than half (56 percent to be exact) of all e-Sports viewership.

Of the 2.9 billion e-Sports views on YouTube, Live Competition Coverage (46 percent), Highlights (15 percent), Semi-Pro (13 percent), and Opinions (12 percent) capture the most attention of gamers all around the world.

Content Targeting is the Answer

At Zefr, we know just how important it is for brands to harness the mindshare and loyalty of truly engaged communities – like the gaming community. Now, you can target this incredibly tuned-in community via the content they are watching daily. To make this easy for you, we’ve built a unique Gaming Package, comprised of 3M videos and 487K channels across e-Sports, PC, and mobile as well as across the brands generating the bulk of this gaming content (i.e. X-Box, PlayStation, Nintendo). Through content targeting, we provide a new – and better – way for brands to tap into gaming communities in more relevant, authentic, and impactful ways.

Learn more about how Zefr can help you align your brand’s message with the right content on YouTube through content targeting.

5 video streaming predictions 2016 zefr
Thought Leadership

This article was originally published on Re/code.

At the end of 2013, I wrote an article entitled, “Video Is the Future of Social” for AllThingsD. In it, I predicted the important role that video would play in the social Web, and why. Two years later, as digital video has grown exponentially, thanks to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, it feels more and more like we are at the precipice of yet another tipping point for content and content distribution.

So for 2016, I’m making five new predictions on the future of streaming video, and the platforms and industries at the center of this disruptive market.

1) Free ad-supported video viewing (AVOD) will continue its meteoric growth, but consumers will retaliate against poor advertising experiences.

The industry is already starting to pay the price for egregious ad loads and disruptive, irrelevant ad experiences. This trend will continue to amplify in 2016. A 2015 report by PageFair and Adobe says that 16 percent of the U.S. online population blocks ads, an increase of 48 percent from the previous year.

But this type of ad blocking is just the tip of the iceberg, and the advertising industry needs to wake up and heed the warning signs. For advertisers, this is a call to action to create more compelling and relevant content that is tailor-made for each digital platform. For publishers and platforms, it is a call to action to further innovate and create experiences that align with consumer expectation, mindset and intent.

2) YouTube and Facebook will continue to square off, and it will probably result in a split decision.

In the video arena, each of these platforms offers tremendous audience scale and distinct advertising solutions: YouTube has Google Preferred and TrueView, and Facebook has people-based marketing. As brand marketers shift their broadcast budgets to these open platforms, they will demand certain assurances with regard to brand and content alignment, especially given the variety of uploaded content. Meanwhile, audiences will be equally demanding with their content and viewing experiences.

Two different constituents with a strong set of expectations will most likely result in a split decision. This is to say, one of the platforms might win with the audience, and the other platform might win with the advertisers. YouTube’s new ad-free subscription service, YouTube Red, is a strong step to diversify revenue and dependency on advertisers. Now the challenge is to prove they can convert a percentage of those billion-plus free viewers into paying customers.

3) Cord-cutting and cable unbundling will increase, making the “skinny bundle” an increasingly attractive option.

cord cutting emarketerThe latest forecasts demonstrate that a growing percentage of Americans are “cutting the cord” (4.9 million households in 2015) — and those in the business of television are rushing to keep up. At last year’s CES, Dish premiered its Web-based Sling TV service, which is designed to appeal to a younger generation of “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers.”

In 2015, HBO, Showtime and CBS all debuted standalone streaming services. These new Web-based TV services — coupled with popular offerings like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — have opened consumers’ eyes to the reality of the “skinny bundle.” As consumers adjust to the appeal of making a la carte programming choices, the industry will head directly into my next prediction…

4) The subscription video on demand (SVOD) wars are just beginning, ushering in a new disruptive, hypercompetitive era.

Last August, Disney CEO Bob Iger alluded to the fact that disruption was occurring in the multichannel television universe (cable), and that it wouldn’t be inconceivable to go direct to consumers with Disney’s flagship brand, ESPN. That in turn sparked a massive investor sell-off of TV-related stocks. That market shock might go down in history as the sounding bell for what will certainly become known as The Era of SVOD. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, YouTube Red (as well as more niche SVOD players like Crunchyroll, DramaFever and NBC/Uni’s new Seeso, to name a few) are all vying for consumer attention and the accompanying subscriber revenue.

James Murdoch spoke plainly at the Goldman Sachs Conference last September about the power of OTT (“over-the-top” content, delivered digitally) and how it directly relates to increased control in a disruptive market. The major issues facing those competing in the SVOD arena not only includes subscriber acquisition, but also retention, given that consumers can unsubscribe with a simple click. In the race to attract paid subscribers, platforms that have large audiences viewing free content can be powerful conversion funnels. This bodes well for YouTube Red. In 2016, the other SVOD players will need to leverage the scale of free viewing platforms to drive subscriber growth or quickly become irrelevant in the war for consumer attention.

5) Media companies will become data and tech companies in order to survive and thrive.

This last prediction is actually a warning. I’m a fan of creative IP and the machine that has honed that process of leveraging that IP to drive large media companies. But the biggest mistake anyone can make in this world of nonlinear streaming distribution with diverse global audiences is to think that a media company of tomorrow only needs to focus on yesterday’s playbook.

The greatest coup Netflix pulled off in its early days was to downplay with the media companies (from which it was licensing content) the importance of its data and the substantive role that data could play in building enterprise value. Today, we know that Netflix data (which isn’t shared externally) drives its development, production and distribution strategies and decisions. Its data is driving its growth, and growth is everything — especially when everything is up for grabs.

I believe 2016 will be another interesting chapter in the disruptive market of streaming video. The platforms, industries and brands that are at the center of this disruption will continue to innovate or pay the price. The stakes are too high to not heed the warning signs.

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