Once dominant, Amazon-owned gaming platform Twitch has more competition and more problems
Ninja was the first high-profile talent to leave the livestreaming platform Twitch for a competitor. But industry observers expect that he won’t be the last.
Within days of Ninja announcing that he was leaving Twitch for Microsoft-owned rival Mixer, a talent agent that works in esports was awash in messages from former clients asking if Mixer or Caffeine, another Twitch competitor, was looking for more stars to peel away from Twitch with guaranteed checks.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they [Mixer] take one or two more to make the snowball roll,” that agent said. “Just Ninja alone would be throwing money away.”
The high-profile departure, combined with a recent streak of scandals surrounding streamers’ mistreating animals and using racist language, has cast Twitch’s pluses and minuses in a different light for gamers and for advertisers. Current and former Twitch streamers say the platform appears to be struggling to support its large community of creators and persistent ambiguities surrounding its community guidelines and terms of service. Those issues create uncertainty and frustration, not just among creators, but advertisers too.
Twitch still commands a dominant share of the livestreaming audience, and its tie-ins with Amazon Prime and an impressive collection of features keep the product attractive to streamers. But it faces well-heeled, patient competitors. Caffeine, which just closed a $100 million funding round led by New Fox, offers users a simpler, faster product that hardcore gamers find appealing; Mixer, which Microsoft acquired in 2016, is directly integrated into both Windows 10 and its Xbox gaming system, which attracted 65 million monthly active users, according to the tech company’s recent quarterly earnings.
Reached for comment, Twitch provided a statement. “Our mission is to empower people to create together,” the statement read. “We want to help streamers and communities connect around the games and topics they love and are always working on ways to do so more effectively. Everything we do is in service of our community. Our guidelines and terms of service are in place to help keep our community safe and we take violations of those rules extremely seriously.”
Neither Ninja’s departure nor Twitch’s streamer scandals is likely to scare away advertisers that are already investing in livestreaming. But they could make ambivalent ones more reluctant to invest in livestreaming as a category.
“It’s hard to hear about some of the things that have been going on,” said Ken Olsen, senior director at Rev/XP, a division of the sports marketing agency Revolution focused on esports and gaming. “I think it sets the scene back a little bit.”
Amazon acquired Twitch almost exactly five years ago for $970 million. Today, though it is smaller than video platforms such as YouTube, Twitch commands a large, deeply engaged audience, with over 15 million daily active users, according to executives. Though Twitch experienced its first-ever decline in hours watched in the second quarter of 2019, it still accounted for more than 72% of all the streaming video watched in the gaming space, according to a report from StreamElements.
It also offers many features that put offer streamers an advantage in monetizing their audiences. For example, Twitch Prime, launched in 2016, allows Amazon Prime members to subscribe to one Twitch streamer’s channel for free every month, supporting that streamer with direct revenue without having to open their wallets. Kaitlyn Siragusa, a streamer who goes by the user name Amouranth and who was at the epicenter of one of Twitch’s recent scandals, said that, on average, close to 40% of her subscribers, almost 20% of her monthly revenue, comes from Twitch Prime members subscribing to her channel for free.
Yet livestreaming’s growth (and brand safety’s emergence as a top priority for marketers) has put the misbehavior of streamers community in the spotlight, in a way that has disturbed marketers as well as Twitch streamers. Twitch has had to deal with several clusters of scandals over the past year, including a recent uproar over what many Twitch users see as preferential, or even hypocritical, treatment of the platform’s popular female streamers. On Monday, Twitch’s decision not to suspend a pair of streamers led to the hashtag #Twitchisoverparty trending on Twitter in several locations, including New York City.
Though Twitch has updated its community guidelines in an attempt to make them more straightforward, the issues have been enough to drive some streamers off Twitch altogether. “I left because of the inconsistencies,” said Adrian Charlie, a former Twitch streamer. “A part of me thinks they just don’t have enough staff.”
Charlie’s perception of Twitch’s support resources is shared by many users; the agent whose clients work in esports say that it typically takes days to get replies from his clients’ account managers at Twitch. During the weekends, the response times can run even longer, that agent said.
Past employees say that the slow response times are a reflection of a deliberate process that involves dialogue between partner managers and a separate enforcement team.
“A partner is an employee,” said Chase, who served as the head of communications at Twitch until the beginning of this year, who does not share his last name publicly. “You can’t just shoot first and ask questions later.”
Yet the frustrations are not enough to prompt a massive exodus. While Blevins’s new life on Mixer is off to a good start — within a week of joining Mixer, Blevins had amassed 1 million subscribers, and he is rumored to be collecting as much as $8 million a year from Microsoft on top of his subscriber fees — some streamers say they are unsure of whether people will stay. “We don’t know if it’s loyalty to the streamer or the platform,” Siragusa said of audiences.
But over the long term, this competitiveness will mean more money and more competition for streamers. “It’s going to be really beneficial to everybody involved in the ecosystem,” Olsen said.
How publishers like ESPN are assessing their TikTok videos’ performance
Video makers are looking beyond standard view counts and monitoring their videos’ average completion rates, view growth rates and views from non-followers to better understand what appeals to audiences and TikTok’s algorithms.
Member ExclusiveFuture of TV Briefing: How the TV ad measurement landscape has changed since summer
The Future of TV Briefing this week reviews the flurry of activity on the TV ad measurement front since the summer when the Media Rating Council stripped Nielsen of its accreditation and NBCUniversal opened the doors to alternative providers.
Tastemade adds programs to sell and manage subscriptions, events for creators
Creators are able to sell multi-tiered subscription packages through Tastemade as well as tickets to virtual and in-person events, with 85% to 90% of revenue going to the creator.
SponsoredHow advertisers are shifting mindsets to succeed amid iOS 15 and other identity challenges
On top of the impending cookie deprecation, Apple’s recent iOS 15 changes are causing concern for many advertisers by affecting pixels, IP addresses and email addresses. While these upcoming changes may be concerning for many, shifting mindsets and getting away from a binary way of thinking with solutions being 100% contextual or 100% universal IDs […]
Member ExclusiveFuture of TV Briefing: Streaming services’ subscriber growth slowed during the third quarter of 2021
The Future of TV Briefing this week looks at the broad deceleration in quarter-over-quarter streaming subscriber growth that took place over the summer into the fall.
Member ExclusiveFuture of TV Briefing: How top-tier streamers are setting their ad prices and why they’re likely to rise higher
The Future of TV Briefing this week looks at the ad prices that Discovery, Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia have set for their standalone streaming services and why advertisers feel compelled to pay up.