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South Korea’s Next Big Streaming Platform: Chzzk or AfreecaTV?

Twitch has been the dominant streaming platform worldwide, remaining the go-to platform for esports and video games in particular. But even the streaming giant is not immune to business decisions, and its absence opens the gates for a bevy of new platforms to make their mark. We give you some insights on why Chzzk or AfreecaTV could become the next big streaming platforms in Korea.

Faced with exorbitant operating costs in South Korea, Twitch announced it would shut down its service in the region on the 6th of December last year. Two main competitors hope to seize on this opportunity, coming from vastly different backgrounds: AfreecaTV and Chzzk. AfreecaTV is a mainstay in the Korean streaming market, operating since 2005 and steadily building a loyal fanbase. Chzzk, on the other hand, is a new entrant – backed by Naver-  hoping to capitalize on Twitch users’ desire for a familiar local platform.

As a disruptor in the space, Chzzk is proving itself a competent and competitive platform. As unique channels spring up, average minute viewership (AMA) on the platform is rapidly rising and, potentially, creating a new cornerstone in the Korean streaming arena.

Twitch Viewership Steadily Declines Following the Korean Shutdown Announcement

Following Twitch’s announcement to shutdown in Korea, viewership began to steadily drop on the platform. AMA for Korean-speaking audiences on Twitch was at 152K for the week of the shutdown announcement, but it dropped 9.7% on average per week over the next 11 weeks to just 42K. With the shutdown in force as of the 27th of February, this number will naturally decline even further.

This decrease in viewership is natural, as Korean creators and viewers shift onto alternative platforms that they can access. Korea is not the first country in which Twitch has seen this effect. Most recently, Twitch (and Kick) were banned in Türkiye over gambling concerns. Twitch users will once again be forced to leave the site en masse to competing platforms, or find an unblocked VPN to continue accessing Twitch.

AfreecaTV and Chzzk are Strong Alternatives in the Korean Streaming Arena

With Korean users being forced off of Twitch, they’re migrating primarily to one of two streaming platforms: AfreecaTV or Chzzk. As of the 19th of December, AfreecaTV and Chzzk found themselves with roughly 23K unique Korean-speaking channels each, beating out Twitch with just 20K unique channels. This leaves the three platforms with roughly one-third of the total Korean-speaking channels each.

As channels find a new home on Korean streaming platforms, viewership will follow. This poses a unique dilemma for foreign fans of Korean streamers, who can no longer watch their favorite creators on Twitch. AfreecaTV offers an easier transition for these foreign viewers, allowing them to sign up and watch with a few simple language setting adjustments. Chzzk similarly allows foreign users to access its platform, but requires using Google Translate on every page and asks the user to sign up to Naver Pay if they want to support creators with “Cheese” (the in-platform currency, similar to Twitch’s “Bits”).

AfreecaTV has leveraged its status as the original Korean streaming platform to command impressive viewer retention in Korea compared to the other platforms. As of the 19th of December, AfreecaTV had more than twice the AMA of both Twitch and Chzzk combined, with 138K average minutes watched. Many of AfreecaTV’s users will most likely stay on the platform even after the Twitch shutdown, due to loyalty and familiarity with AfreecaTV’s layout and services.

Chzzk, however, does pose a threat. Chzzk has been built from the ground up to resemble Twitch, acting as the go-to replacement for any users familiar with Twitch’s UI.

Despite still being in beta, Chzzk already has the greatest number of unique channels out of the three platforms (with 23K) and is sitting at just over half of Twitch’s AMA with 22K average viewers.

Chzzk is Making In-roads as a Replacement for Twitch in Korea

Given how quickly Chzzk is gaining popularity, it’s worth deep-diving into the current trends on the platform. Chzzk was created by Naver, South Korea’s equivalent of Google. With hefty financial backing behind it, the platform presents a clean, polished UI that closely resembles that of Twitch itself.

Users can subscribe or donate to their favorite content creators as on Twitch, keeping the experience mostly identical. Some users do report buffering at 1080p on desktop devices, but any bugs are on-track to be ironed out before Chzzk exits beta in the middle of 2024.

Many of the most popular Korean streamers have already switched to Chzzk, and streaming partially on both Twitch and Chzzk for the last three months since the shutdown announcement. 한동숙 (Han Dong-sook), a popular League of Legends and Minecraft player, is the most-watched streamer on Chzzk so far, with 3.6M hours watched throughout February.

His fanbase have almost entirely switched from Chzzk to Twitch: In December 2023, 한동숙 had an AMA of 14K on Twitch. This has dropped to just 2.3K on Twitch in February 2024, while his AMA on Chzzk has risen to 14.3K. This suggests fans are more than willing to follow their favorite creators onto Chzzk’s new platform.

As Chzzk is new, users are still slow to move onto the platform for some of Twitch’s most popular games among Korean-speaking viewers. Looking at games like World of Warcraft paints a fairly dismal picture for Chzzk’s viewership, with Chzzk’s AMA sitting at just 0.7% of Twitch’s. However, games aimed at younger viewers seem to perform better, perhaps reflecting younger viewers’ willingness to adapt to a new streaming platform. The AMA for Minecraft on Chzzk sits at 30K average minutes watched, an impressive 82% of Twitch’s 34K. 

It remains to be seen if Chzzk’s copycat strategy can attract more viewers from Twitch than AfreecaTV’s nearly 20-year presence in the space. Streaming demand will radically shift now that Twitch has formally shut down as of the 27th of February, and Chzzk still has time to prove itself the dominant platform before it exits beta in mid 2024. As this transition occurs, Stream Hatchet will be tracking where Korean-speaking audiences are headed for their steaming content.

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