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Twitch considering changes to the Twitch Partner Program

Streamers are still being DMCA'd for clips they delete on Twitch

A proposed series of changes to the Twitch Partner Program have a lot of people worried. As Bloomberg reported, there are two big policy changes being internally discussed. Both of the changes concern monetization, and have the potential to anger a lot of people. One change would see streamers taking big pay cuts, and other would cause many more ads on the site.

It’s worth noting that other plans may be in the works, including further sectioning off of the Twitch Partner Program into new tiers. Lower tiers of the Twitch Partner Program may see the least active streamers having most of their pay from the few subs and donations they get taken by Twitch. At least that’s the tone of what these changes suggest. In essence, Twitch only cares about you as long as you’re a big name. Why do I say that, let’s talk about it.

Less Money for Streamers

One of the more controversial changes is the potential reduction in the cut from Subscriptions. The change would reduce the cut of Subscriptions paid to streamers themselves to 50%, from 70%. Twitch subs for Partners range in price from $5 to $25 a month, and subs get various benefits. They get digital badges, access to exclusive content and VODs, as well as supporting their favorite content creators. Seeing more of their cash go to Twitch’s pocket is going to anger a lot of people.

For many streamers, they see a pretty consistent income stream from their cut of donations and Subs. Twitch is considering cutting the portion they pay to streamers, adding a bigger boost to their own bottom line. Anyone who has used Twitch in the last few months could see the problem here. The problem of hate raids and content spam has only gotten worse. Bots and other malicious actors have acted with impunity for months now, and Twitch has been seemingly paralyzed with indecision. Many of the top streamers have only received deafening silence in return when trying to call attention to the platform’s issues.

And considering how much time and effort it takes smaller streamers to grow, that pay cut isn’t sustainable. So unless you’re willing to destroy your work/life balance, it looks like Amazon doesn’t want you making money on the platform. If you’re not already a big name with hundreds or thousands of subs, you’re going to have a much harder time on the site. Not every streamer can set up a Patreon to cover the inevitable loss. What does Twitch expect people to do? Make content for free and just run ads over it that they don’t see any return from? People have to eat. Twitch. And anyone who has used YouTube without an ad blocker recently can tell you how irritating it is to have ads all over a video.

Setting aside the issues with content quality, the lack of moderation is just as concerning. When Twitch has tried to apply better moderation, it has been frustratingly tone-deaf, including the infamous attempts to ban words like ‘simp’ from Twitch chats. Twitch has also struggled with DMCA and other copyright policies, leading to confusion and further worry on the part of content creators. What exactly is all that money going to? Oh that’s right, the ever-vaunted “profit”.

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More Ads Instead

That’s not all though, as Amazon-owned Twitch is also looking to incentivize more ads on their platform. The company would offer incentives for streamers to run more ads on their streams. The company could even shift more money towards ad payouts by cutting sub payouts. This is all part of Amazon to try and squeeze more money out of their cash cow, and a lot of users and streamers are going to be annoyed. The question remains, how many will actually leave? There’s no direct alternative to Twitch for streamers, not really. YouTube is a nightmare for usability and community engagement—and Facebook Gaming is a comparative ghost town.

We can see the problem of a viable alternative in viewer numbers. YouTube Gaming concurrent viewers (CCV) has been below 800 thousand CCV for years now. The peak of just below 900,000 CCV in the fourth quarter of 2020 has all but evaporated, back to previous levels of around 300-400 thousand. Twitch hasn’t been below 2 million concurrent viewers since its low of 1.44 million in Q1 2021. Even as far back as 2018, Twitch viewership was north of 1 million CCV. And while Overwatch League and other popular properties have helped YouTube grow, it still lags behind Twitch. Facebook Gaming is as bad off as YouTube, or even worse depending on how you view the stats. In Q3 2021, the platform peaked at just shy of 600,000 CCV that quarter. Current numbers put viewership below 300,000 CCV.

So what would a new ad landscape on Twitch look like? In simple terms, many more video ads. The ad system will vary a lot depending on the location and audience of the streamer, but they generally between $3.50 to $5 for 1,000 ad impressions. That rate has been shifting over previous months, to requiring a certain number of ad “minutes” per stream from their top streamers. This often manifests as intentional ad breaks for many big names on the platform. Anyone who has paid attention during these streams will see a big drop in viewership when ads play.

That problem only increases as you play more ads. Twitch wants to increase the volume of ads being played, while also cutting streamer pay from subs. That seems like a terrible idea for community growth and viewer retention. The company could still abandon these changes, although that’s not guaranteed. A representative for Twitch declined to comment when asked by Bloomberg.

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