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Twitch audience soars amid child protection concerns

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Live-streaming service Twitch has increased its UK audience by 50% in the last year, Sky News has learned.

Twitch, which is best known as a place to watch and chat about gaming, has enjoyed a year of huge growth as audiences for traditional TV remained stagnant.

The firm recently announced that, on average, more than one million people were on Twitch at any given moment, watching an average of 95 minutes per session.

That makes Amazon-owned Twitch the second-largest streaming platform for total minutes watched per viewer, behind only Netflix.

Image: Twitch is best known as a place to watch and chat about gaming

By contrast, the UK's biggest TV channel, BBC1, reaches around 25,000 people a week, who watch around five hours on average, according to the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.

"Our audience is growing in every geography that we operate in and we're seeing just improving year on year growth," Sara Clemens, Twitch's chief operating officer, told Sky News.

"We've over a hundred million people globally who watch Twitch and fifteen million daily who tune in to watch Twitch."

Twitch, which is funded by advertising, recently opened a new European headquarters in London's West End, staffed primarily by sales teams.

Employees work at the offices of Twitch
Image: Twitch, which has offices in San Francisco, has opened a European HQ in London

The service, which recently started showing the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" games, has been increasing its range and number of partners, channels which earn revenue by accepting subscriptions from viewers.

In the UK, Twitch told Sky News that the number of partners had increased 20% year-on-year and partner revenue had increased 80%.

Asked whether Twitch might consider a partnership with the Premier League, Ms Clemens replied: "Maybe."

However, the platform's popularity among young people has raised questions about its policies around addiction and gaming.

Andrew Burrows, head of online safety at the NSPCC, said: "On a site like Twitch children can live-stream or live broadcast themselves and chat to any other user on the platform."

The charity's research shows that one in 20 children who have live-streamed have been asked to undress on camera.

Ms Clemens told Sky News that Twitch had robust guidelines around the content in its servers.

"We are not only investing in technology tools to do that, we also have moderators who can investigate any reports and concerns about conduct," she said.

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Asked if she was concerned viewers were spending too much time on Twitch, Ms Clemens said: "Engagement on Twitch is an engagement with a community and being concerned about people spending time is the same as being concerned about people spending time with a group of friends."

In June, the NHS launched its first clinic for internet addiction, with a special focus on video games.

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