Commentary

Tweaks To Twitch

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 17, 2020

Last week, Twitch made a number of important announcements.

One of the world’s most popular gaming streamers, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, returned to Twitch via a multi-year exclusivity contract. Back in the early fall of 2019, Ninja signed an exclusivity contract with Microsoft’s streaming service Mixer (launched in 2016) as Microsoft hoped to bring over his massive 14 million-follower audience from Twitch to the new service.

Despite this and other exclusive signings, Mixer failed to gain any traction. At its peak, Mixer had around 10 million monthly active users, whereas Twitch has 100 million monthly active users.

Mixer shut down this summer, giving Ninja the freedom to move platforms again. Ninja’s contract with Mixer was supposedly somewhere near $30 million, so who knows how much he earned from this deal.

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When the talent exclusivity wars first began, the theory seemed to be that in the case of Ninja, his massive audience on Twitch would follow him wherever he went. Although some viewers certainly did migrate to Mixer, the mass majority did not.

While Ninja had 14 million followers on Twitch, his peak on Mixer was around 3 million, making him still the most popular creator on both platforms. Even with his sabbatical from Twitch, the next-most-followed account has 9 million followers.

In other words, it suggests that gaming audiences do care about what platform their favorite creator is on, and the familiarity of Twitch for so many of its users leads to platform loyalty rather than creator loyalty, as is demonstrated by Ninja. 

Twitch announced a dedicated streamer-esports organization system called “Twitch Versus,” which is now in beta testing.

The platform will be tested by game developers, collegiate esports leagues, and Twitch content creators before moving to open usage.

The goal is to enable more up-and-coming pro-gamers to get some esports experience under their belt in a friendlier and more accessible way than big-name organized esports.

In 2019, Twitch founded Twitch Rivals -- a series of esports competitions that catered to popular content creators by giving them sponsored tournaments run by Twitch.

This was the first push by Twitch to move toward the democratization of esports. Other companies, like Epic Games and its breadwinner Fortnite, have hosted open esports tournaments that allowed anyone above a certain rank within the game to compete and qualify for its 3 million-dollar championship tournament.

Now, Twitch is furthering this inclusivity and grassroots availability by enabling anyone on Twitch to run an esports competition through Versus.

As a result, more marketers may be able to move into streamer-specific sponsorships and partnerships by contributing prizes or prize pools for the competitions, and at cheaper price points due to the relatively lower profile of the competition.

Depending on the level of gameplay, this could also result in the discovery and recruitment of more professional gamers.

Twitch has been added to Amazon’s advertising portfolio for marketers running ads through the Amazon Advertising suite, its online proprietary advertising platform.

Prior to the announcement, Twitch had an independent ad-sales structure that was always kept separate from the rest of Amazon’s advertising. Now, Twitch inventory will be available within the Amazon bucket, allowing other Amazon advertisers to buy video and display ads.

Twitch, like YouTube, has used digital banners and pre-roll 15-second and 30-second ads for a while now. 

As more non-gaming content moves to Twitch, marketers will have the opportunity to place their ads alongside the content they already advertise with. For example, Twitch has been broadcasting the women’s National Soccer League and Thursday Night Football.

By integrating with the rest of Amazon’s advertising suite, marketers will now simply drag over their ads to Twitch where they deem appropriate.

It's important to remember that the ever-coveted 18 -to-34-year-old demographic is huge on Twitch, and according to eMarketer, Twitch reaches 16% of the U.S. digital video audience -- around 37 million people.

Ultimately, this ease of access to digital advertising on Twitch will likely lead more new advertisers to Amazon and more existing advertisers to spend more within the platform.

Part of their campaigns can now easily be added to Twitch, which may make marketers much more comfortable with testing digital ads on a gaming-focused platform. 

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