This article is part of the Digiday Video Briefing, which features must-reads, confessionals and key market stats. To receive the Digiday Video Briefing, please subscribe.
Twitch has made cuts to its program in which the company pays esports teams to stream on the Amazon-owned video platform. The payment reductions are pushing more teams to post clips of their Twitch livestreams to YouTube in order to make up for the lost revenue and ease their reliance on the game-centric streaming service.
Within the past year, Twitch has been pruning its payment program for esports teams, according to media and entertainment executives in the gaming category. The platform continues to pay some esports teams in exchange for streaming a specified number of hours on Twitch each month. However, in some cases, it has either reduced the amount of money that it pays teams or phased teams out of the payment program, the execs said. It is unclear how many teams Twitch had been paying as part of the program, the specific terms and amounts of those payments and how many teams have been affected by the changes. Twitch declined to comment on the moves beyond a statement.
“Twitch has been the go-to destination for Esports content for years. We’ve been at the forefront of the industry’s growth and success, and we will continue to invest in Esports and competitive gaming as a component of our overall content strategy,” said a Twitch spokesperson in an emailed statement.
Twitch appears to have made these changes in order to focus the payment program on top competitive esports teams, according to the execs. Some teams that Twitch had been paying had added popular but non-competitive gaming creators to their teams to help fulfill their content commitments, according to Louis Timchak III, vp of sales at Bent Pixels, a talent management company that works with digital video creators, including esports teams.
The payments from Twitch were a top-three revenue stream for some esports teams, and the reductions have pushed the affected teams to diversify beyond the platform, said Menashe Kestenbaum, CEO of Enthusiast Gaming, a digital media company that specializes in gaming content.
Twitch’s payment changes come at a time when many gaming creators and esports teams have already been looking to diversify beyond the platform. Earlier this month, Twitch’s most popular streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins announced that he was leaving the platform for Microsoft’s rival platform, Mixer. That specific example likely has a lot to do with the money Microsoft was willing to pay Blevins for making the move. But it also highlighted the increased competition that Twitch currently faces. YouTube remains a major platform for gaming videos, while Facebook and Mixer have also been trying to encroach on Twitch’s turf.
However, the failure of YouTube’s standalone gaming app and Twitch’s relatively small audience of 15 million daily viewers suggest that the market for gaming videos is not a winner-take-all contest but a multiplayer game.
Esports teams may be diversifying beyond Twitch, but they are not leaving Twitch. Instead, they are increasingly adopting YouTube as a way to extend their Twitch streams, especially when sponsors are involved.
“Twitch is still the dominant one for streaming [live videos]. YouTube is still the dominant one for recorded [videos],” said Kestenbaum.
Individual creators and esports teams often stream live on Twitch for hours at a time. That can help to accrue a large audience over the span of the stream, but live viewers may tune in and out and miss parts of the stream showcasing a sponsor. So creators and teams cut shorter highlight clips of the longer streams and post those clips to YouTube, which has 2 billion monthly viewers, where they can reach a wider audience than on Twitch.
Cutting highlight videos of Twitch streams and posting them to YouTube is not a new practice. Austin Long, vp of gaming partnerships and strategy at gaming-focused digital media company Omnia Media, noticed it about two years ago when the profile of Twitch creators and esports teams had grown to the point of meriting them having standalone YouTube channels.
But as marketers invest more in esports, the practice of editing Twitch streams into clips for YouTube has become more prevalent among esports teams. “When thinking about traditional social influencer arrangements in other verticals, most contracts include cross-posting across channels to get as much scale as possible out of branded content. Esports are no different,” said Sarah Schneebaum, community manager at MRY.
Posting the highlight clips of the Twitch streams to YouTube can help marketers to rationalize their sponsorships of Twitch creators and esports teams, given that gaming and esports remain emerging categories for many marketers. In addition to providing incremental viewers, YouTube offers more in-depth analytics than Twitch, which does not provide basic analytics like demographic breakdowns of viewers, said Timchak. “Brands need the analysis and the data in order to justify their investment,” said Mason Bates, account director of sponsorships and content+ at Mindshare.
Even though Twitch does not offer detailed analytics, the insights it does provide can help to make sure the highlight clips showcase the best sections of a stream. Twitch allows creators and teams to see how viewership and comments trended over the course of a stream, and insights into viewership and engagement peaks can inform which clips are pulled for the highlight clips, said Bates.
Twitch creators and teams are posting these highlight videos to YouTube for a couple reasons that go beyond the size of YouTube’s audience. YouTube’s monetization program enables creators to get additional revenue from these videos, and YouTube offers a better platform for getting views for these non-live videos. While creators and teams can upload non-live videos to Twitch, the platform does not do a great job of highlighting these on-demand videos and viewership suffers as a result, according to media executives. For one popular Twitch creator that Bent Pixels manages, the creator’s on-demand videos on Twitch receive, on average, between 2,000 and 5,000 views, whereas on YouTube they average between 300,000 and 500,000 views, according to Timchak.
“It’s hard to get discovered if you’re making good content on Twitch because unless it’s live, no one sees it,” said Long.