Revenue streaming – for the stars of video streaming, success means working around the clock


Portrait of the eSports platform Twitch:

  • The only way to attract viewers, and to prevent the ones you had from straying to other broadcasters, [is] to be online constantly, “to grow the viewership,”
    • Many recognize this is not healthy
    • Many female broadcasters cope with sexual solicitation and other forms of harassment.
  • Twitch’s “partners,” is an élite group that includes some 25,000 streamers
  • Subscribers pay a monthly fee for access to perks such as ad-free viewing
    • The lifeblood of a Twitch channel is its “subs”: broadcasters get a share of every five-dollar monthly subscription. […] That share ranges from 50 to 70%, depending on [the streamer’s] popularity.
  • To sponsors, Twitch offers a novel opportunity: access to a generation that resists traditional advertising media but is steeped in video games.
    • “Twitch is not ‘If you build it, they will come’. It’s like surfing, where you have to go to the waves.”
  • While some broadcasters focus exclusively on one game (and consequently lose viewers if that game’s popularity declines), variety streamers switch titles freely, succeeding on the strength of their charisma. “Their audiences [are] there because they like that person.”. This congeniality makes variety streamers much more appealing to sponsors.
    • Some variety streamers are as garrulous as morning-radio hosts, able to talk enthusiastically—and to boost products—for hours. [Their] audience is so loyal and adoring (some fans have tipped one more than ten thousand dollars over time, or watched him stream for 24 hours straight) that [their] channel can resemble a benign personality cult, built around a carefully honed version of [themselves]: engaged, jokey, ceaselessly positive.
  • Young people watch game streaming in huge numbers. Twitch claims to reach half of the millennial males in the United States
  • In 2014, Amazon acquired the service, which had been renamed Twitch, for 970 million dollars. It now has more than twelve hundred employees.

The appeal?

  • People enjoy watching others who are good at what they do.
  • The deeper draw to Twitch, however, is its capacity for interactivity.
    • For viewers, a Twitch channel is not just entertainment but also a virtual community, which functions only when its most important member is online. Twitch has succeeded because it made gaming feel communal again. “We’re essentially a social network for the gaming age.”
    • The other side of Twitch is that you are playing a game with someone on the couch. There’s a level of interaction that’s just not there in standard media.
    • This interaction has an unusual kind of immediacy: [participate enough and a streamer will] greet you by name, every day. ‘I feel like Icould be their friend’ or ‘I know I’m just one of his thousands of fans, but I really do feel like he understands me’ say viewers

Typical meeting with marketers and potential sponsors go like this:

“This eighteen-year-old punk kid shows up,” “and he’s talking about how things are ‘retarded’ and making fart jokes and not listening to your team with a hundred years of experience. And you’re sitting there going, ‘This is the guy who makes the decision about whether my company succeeds or fails?’ “First you’re angry. But then you’re terrified.”

When presenting Twitch to Sony executives, Omeed Dariani who manages talent dedicated to professional video-game streamers would send a chat message to the broadcaster, who returned his greeting on camera: “Hey, Omeed!” This invariably made the executives sit up. “All of a sudden, you see the power of the medium,”