Have you ever been in a stream and felt like the streamer takes forever to read your comments? Or you’ve had the opposite experience, and been in a stream where it’s felt like a real-time conversation. This is all down to stream delay.
Competitive game streamers might have a longer delay to prevent “stream sniping”, whereas more interactive streamers focused on engagement may have a shorter Twitch delay to allow them to talk to their communities more naturally. Want your memes to land quickly and effectively? You’ll want to reduce that delay as much as possible.
So what is Twitch stream delay? Let’s talk about the feature and how you can increase or reduce stream delay on your own stream.
Twitch stream delay is the short period of time between when something happens on your computer, and when your viewers see it. The huge amount of processing Twitch does on the thousands of streams taking place at any one time on the platform introduces a short, unavoidable delay.
Your own streaming setup and internet connection also directly impact the delay. Your audience's internet connection and geographical location also play a big part. For example, a viewer from Australia watching a stream in the US might have a longer delay than someone watching from the next state over. Similarly, a viewer with a faster internet connection will be able to keep up more than someone with a slower connection.
As a streamer, there are many ways you can affect your stream delay. However, you can never remove it completely. We’ll give you some tips on how to reduce your stream delay, or even add a longer delay if you’d like.
On average, the Twitch stream delay is around 10-15 seconds. The delay varies depending on the streamer’s and viewer's internet connection and geographical location. Twitch's Low Latency mode also has an impact, which we'll talk about in a little bit.
If you’re not a partnered streamer, you won’t have guaranteed access to Twitch’s transcoding options. Transcoding allows viewers to drop down to a lower quality if their connection can’t handle your stream at its native resolution. Without transcoding options, if you stream at a higher bitrate your viewers may experience buffering or a longer delay.
Twitch partners have full access to transcodes, whereas all other streamers get them when they're available. With transcoding active, your viewers can effectively reduce their own stream delay and have a more stable video feed of your stream.
There’s no surefire way to test the delay you as a streamer have. However, your viewers can check the delay they have to your stream by taking the following steps. First, click on the cog icon in the bottom right of the screen. Then, click “Advanced”, and toggle the “Video Stats” option. This pops up a small window in the upper-left of the video player.
The Video Stats window gives a lot of interesting information including the video resolution, FPS, any skipped or dropped frames, and the stat we’re looking for: Latency to Broadcaster. Viewers can see exactly how long their delay on your stream is, updated in real time.
There are a few ways that you can change your Twitch delay. Below we detail how you can either reduce your stream delay, or increase your delay if you have a reason to do so.
If you want to reduce your stream delay on Twitch, you will need to get a little technical. Check out Twitch’s guide for setting up your encoding settings and bitrate if you need some help figuring out the optimal bitrate for your stream.
While your bitrate doesn’t directly impact your stream delay, keep in mind that if your viewers have slower internet connections, a higher bitrate means more data they have to stream in order to watch you. If you don’t have transcoding (ie, if you aren’t a partner and there is no transcode availability during your stream), consider lowering your bitrate to prevent buffering or increased delay. You might need to change your resolution or FPS if your bitrate needs to be lower. The guide linked above should help with that.
Twitch has also implemented a feature called Low Latency mode, which should be on by default. However, you can always check whether you have it enabled or not by going to your Stream Manager, then expanding the “Preferences” section and clicking through to “Channel”. You can toggle Latency Mode to either Low or Normal latency. If it’s set to Normal, switch it to Low to reduce your stream delay.
There are some situations where you might want to increase your Twitch delay. For example, streamers taking part in a tournament may add an extra delay to prevent the opponent from snooping. You may also want to add delay to avoid stream sniping.
In this case, you can add a stream delay on the software side in OBS Studio and its variants. Go to File > Settings, then click on the Advanced tab. In the “Stream Delay” section, check “Enable”, and change the Duration as necessary. Note that this does need additional resources, but if you’re only adding a short delay it won’t be too heavy.
Partners can also add a stream delay through the Stream Manager on Twitch. On your new dashboard, click on the plus icon and add the “Add Stream Delay” option to your Stream Manager. You can then click into the stream delay box and use the slider to adjust your stream delay from 0 minutes up to 15 minutes.
While the Twitch stream delay is inevitable, there are ways for you to influence it to fit your needs.
You can reduce your Twitch delay to allow for near-instant communication with your audience using Twitch’s Low Latency mode and smart use of your setup. Alternatively, you can increase your Twitch delay to protect yourself from stream snipers or your opponents' prying eyes.
It’ll never be possible to completely get rid of stream delay. Even so, we hope that these tips have helped you figure out how to make the delay work for you and your stream.