You’ve all seen the furor over hot tub streams, the "softcore porn" dominating Twitch, but did you know it gets worse?
Every day, you can watch live, nude action uncensored, with naked furries romping around in the water without a care in the world or shred of self-awareness. Even after big names like xQc and Pokimane spoke out in favor of basic decency, this continues to occur…
We are, of course, talking about otters, and visible otters at that. Since the creation of the Pools, Hot Tub, and Beaches tab on Twitch, there have been a number of attempts to capitalize in creative ways but none more wholesome and entertaining than the Marine Mammal Rescue service based in B.C., Canada. With taglines like "🧊💦 COLDEST TUB 🥶 ON TWITCH! 🔥 HOTTEST E-OTTERS 🔥 NO BIKINIS 👙🍒", you know they also have a sense of humor, so we had to try and find out more.
To do so, we contacted the center, and the man behind the stream, one Marcus Wernicke, was happy to have a chat. To kick things off we asked him what the thought process behind starting the stream was in the first place, and we are delighted to say that story in itself is as adorable as, well, an otter playing in a pool.
Marcus, thanks so much for speaking to us, and for the hours of entertainment. First up, how did the stream come about?
We've been streaming on both YouTube and Twitch since July 2020. The initial intention was simply to give people something positive to watch. Whatever media you turned to last summer, COVID-19 dominated the headlines and we wanted to give people some distraction.
A male sea otter pup named Joey had just been rescued and was in rehab at the rescue center and we streamed his progress 24/7, allowing people to watch him in his nursery as he was getting bottle-fed, learning to swim and dive, or simply sleeping. He quickly turned into a viral sensation, attracting thousands of people that followed his progress every day.
"We received feedback from teachers who watched the stream with their students, a fire department that had it running in their break room, a nursing home where residents were following Joey's progress, a hospital — and even a correctional facility."
Joey was ultimately deemed non-releasable by the federal government while still in rehab as he was too young at the time of rescue to have learned how to survive in the wild. That meant that he would remain in human care, and so we followed him as he moved to the Vancouver Aquarium where he eventually met the other rescued otters. Joey had by then accumulated a huge fan community.
Some eager fans were better at identifying the animals and their quirks than staff. It was crazy. Whatever these otters did, thousands of people were following their stories, and we received feedback from teachers who watched the stream with their students, a fire department that had it running in their break room, a nursing home where residents were following Joey's progress, a hospital — and even a correctional facility. Never before has a large audience been able to watch sea otters up close, night and day — and some of the things we captured on camera have even surprised their caretakers...
Those otters were everywhere, and the media attention quickly sent the stream into YouTube's recommendations and it just kept growing. After the initial hype, several hundred unique viewers on YouTube remained as a core of people from around the world who kept watching, either because they had become so involved in the daily lives of these animals that it was like a soap opera they couldn't stop watching, or they tuned in just for the calming effect.
"Amouranth, the top streamer in that category, had raided our channel in the past. I had watched her ASMR streams a few times, and knew about her love for animals."
Finally, and that brings me to the present, and our most recent viral success, when Twitch announced the creation of a new category "Pools, hot tubs and beaches" to respond to the "controversy" surrounding hot tub streamers.
I saw an opening to apply some guerilla marketing if you will, and thought, hey, we're clearly a pool stream, and I decided to just place our live stream in that category. That was pretty much immediately after that new category was announced, and there was little competition, so the otter stream quickly rose to the top 10 and kept collecting viewers, then averaging at about 1500 viewers that would watch at any given time.
That’s amazing, and it sounds like Joey is the one who started it all... How would you describe the public response so far?
I should mention that we've also received hundreds of messages from supporters telling us how the stream helped them cope with anxiety, stress, or difficult situations. "This stream saved me" is a line we still get a lot. A student even conducted a study with the help of our Discord community, interviewing more than 500 participants and asking them how the live stream had influenced their lives.
With our recent success on Twitch, we've also picked up an entirely new audience of younger viewers. Our mission is to educate as much as we want to entertain, and we've heard from many viewers how they've been inspired by the stream to take an interest in conservation, wanting to volunteer at their local wildlife rescue org etc. — That really exceeded our expectations.
How about Twitch? Has the community been welcoming, and has the move to Twitch been valuable to the MMR’s mission?
Amouranth, the top streamer in that category, had raided our channel in the past. I had watched her ASMR streams a few times, and knew about her love for animals. And I thought she wouldn't mind if we had a little fun with the hot tub meta when we started copying the lingo we found in her stream titles, describing the otters as SHAMELESS, or calling them E-OTTERS with the "THICCEST FUR," or warning people that our talents wore NO BIKINIS.
Other streamers in the category also seemed to like the otters and embraced our "invasion" of the hot tub meta by raiding our channel and introducing these beautiful animals to an even wider audience. We've really mostly had a very positive response all around. Ultimately, the goal for our live stream is still to bring a little calm into a hectic world, and those otters have a way to do just that, every day.
The rescue center and the Vancouver Aquarium have recently changed owners and are in the process of going through some structural changes. As a result, we're not currently fundraising. However, responsible for much of our success has been how the Twitch community embraced us so quickly. Streamers of all kinds, big and small, are supporting us and our mission every day by spreading the word and raiding and hosting our channel. It's a great way to get those otters out into the world where they can inspire even more people. And that's really all we want to achieve right now.
Is there anyone you want to shout out or thank with the stream in mind?
I want to mention that our live stream is entirely produced by volunteers, myself included. We have over 30 very dedicated camera operators and chat moderators from around the world that follow the otters around the clock to give viewers the best perspective and to provide context. Camera operators use four cameras to capture every moment.
We also run a Discord server where our very active community posts dozens of highlights every day. They all come together to make this possible. And while I was the one to launch the live stream, it would've never seen any success without the contributions of this community. It's a team effort like nothing I've experienced before.
We’d like to thank Marcus for his time, and all the volunteers for making the best stream on Twitch possible day after day. You can learn more about MMR and their mission on their site, or the Vancouver Aquarium site here, and we strongly encourage you to check out the stream and support it if you can.