Surf’s up: Twitch gives some users the ability to flip through channels

By 07/05/2022
Surf’s up: Twitch gives some users the ability to flip through channels

While the rest of the internet copies features associated with TikTokTwitch is looking to adopt one of the defining experiences of cable TV. The streaming platform is testing a tool that would allow users to flip through streams, which sounds similar to the once-widespread practice of channel surfing.

Twitch showed off its “Channel Switcher” in a tweet shared on June 30. The feature presents a row of active streams across the bottom of the screen, and viewers can flip through them to find the one they want to watch. This old-school function still has plenty of applications in the new media world. The Channel Switcher can help viewers find new accounts to follow without forcing them to wade through Twitch’s cluttered directories. And if you’re trying to tune into two streams at once, the Channel Switcher’s video previews can help you stay on top of the action, so that you don’t miss a big moment.

Those previews will show up to 60 seconds of a broadcast, according to Twitch spokesperson Ashton Williams. Williams told The Verge that only a “small percentage of users who are logged in” will be able to use the Channel Switcher. At some point in July, Twitch plans to take the Channel Switcher back offline so that it can examine the data from its test period and use those results to further develop the digital remote.

Channel surfing, which helps cable TV viewers make the most of their limited viewing options, may seem like a strange technology for Twitch to introduce, but the Amazon-owned company is hardly the first video platform to take cues from traditional media. For evidence, look no further than the bundles and digital TV services that have refashioned streaming media plans so that they resemble cable TV packages.

Twitch streams aren’t “packaged” in the same way cable bundles are, so the launch of the Channel Switcher is more of a hypothesis than anything else: Can terrestrial TV’s discovery features increase discoverability on an open-ended platform? If the answer turns out to be yes, it will be good news for Twitch. After all, promoting unsung streams is all the rage these days.

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