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Twitch Brings Social Eating Stateside

Social eaters on Twitch

Social Eating

Somehow, the mundanity of daily life has become a live-streaming phenomenon, with tens of thousands of viewers tuning in to watch people sleep, talk, work, and game.

And now there’s social eating.

Social eating is as simple as it sounds – people tune in to watch other people eat. But it’s not a continuation of a gourmet cooking show: The dishes are usually simple, sometimes a bit gross. The appeal lies more in the voyeurism and camaraderie – the stars often offer a constant stream of thoughts and commentary while dining.

Social eating hails from South Korea where it’s termed “Mukbang,” or literally “eating” and “broadcast.” Some theorize that social eating might be particularly appealing to South Korean women, many of whom follow strict diets. These social eating live streams are a way to enjoy fatty meals vicariously.

In South Korea, eaters broadcast on AfreecaTV, similar to YouTube. The platform has about 5,000 channels, and about 5% of those pertain to social eating. These social eaters can earn as much as $9,000 a month. (At least one parody account mocking the social eaters of South Korea has emerged.)

Here in the states, social eating is becoming popular too, thanks, in large part, to Twitch. The live streaming video platform added a social eating channel in July, although CEO Emmett Shear admitted he doesn’t really get what social eating is all about.

Of course, people were skeptical that gamers would watch other games too at one point. But last year, 1.7 million broadcasters streamed 241,441,823,059 minutes of content on Twitch, most of them were gamers watching gamers.

“I remember starting Twitch, and me being really, really interested in watching gaming and a lot of people said, ‘People watch other people play games on the internet? Who wants to do that?'” Shear told Bloomberg.

“I’m cautious about writing anything off just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean there isn’t some group of people for whom this is going to be exciting. So I sort of view it as a wait and see mode. I think it could be huge.”

On other platforms like YouNow, users stream their daily lives as well – sleeping, working, and eating are popular themes. Broadcasters of all sorts can earn money through ads and subscriptions on these platforms.

Social eating is part of Twitch’s push to diversify content after Amazon acquired the company for $1 billion two years ago. The company’s efforts include Twitch Creative, a category devoted to artists and the creative process. Twitch users can watch sewing, painting, and cooking happening in real time.

Social eating was demanded by Twitch users, according to the company.

“The Twitch community is nothing, if not unique, and we support their passion and interests,” said Raiford Cockfield, a director at Twitch, in a press release announcing the launch of the new social eating channel.

“We were also receiving feedback from our users who had embraced our platform’s creative category for cooking, but lamented they couldn’t spend an equal amount of time eating what they prepared.”

Browsing the social eating channel, though, turns up a lot of packaged food and takeout. Many users seem to be taking a quick break from gaming to wolf down some grub. They’re often in gaming chairs, although some discuss relationships and other issues while chowing down.

A Motherboard investigation by Leif Johnson found broadcasters vomiting on air.

Soon after launching the channel, Twitch posted examples of what cannot be broadcasted on Social Eating. “Eating foods in a manner that might inflict harm upon yourself or lead to vomiting” and “Primarily eating junk food, such as candy, condiments, or energy food,” is not allowed.

America, it seems, wants put its own stamp on social eating.

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