This Year's Streaming War... No, Not That One... Or That One... The Other One

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, January 25, 2024
“Do you really use Apple Music?” some of my friends will ask me. “Yeah, well, the Spotify interface is not nearly as clean,” I usually respond. That's the usual type of debate about two platforms that for all intents and purposes do the same thing: connect people to music.

Some people who are closer to the space will debate the benefits of each platform for artists, discoverability, brand support and more, but the conversation doesn't become political or controversial.

There was a time when viewing content on streaming platforms felt like this. Watching streams on your platform of choice -- whether Twitch, YouTube or Facebook Gaming -- was an enjoyable extension of people's gaming experiences. The creators that you chose to support or the platform you watched them on didn't mean much.

There has been a clear shift in the modern-day zeitgeist of gaming streaming platforms.

Problematic creators are suddenly finding a place for their voices, and the platforms are struggling to do anything about it, if they even want to.



The big picture is this: now that “gaming” and “gaming centric platforms” have become more diverse in content and audience, there is a new kind of secret war for the soul of content platforms -- a pseudo-political schism that is best seen between Twitch and Kick, a relatively recent platform addition to the streaming world.

In addition, there is more confusion and complication than ever before for marketers, brands and even creators looking to find what works for them in the streaming world.

Kick Streaming launched in October 2022 after a series of protests against gambling streaming from top content creators on Twitch like Pokimane and Hasanabi.

The platform is owned and backed by Stake -- one of the largest, if not the largest, online gambling website in the world. It was seemingly created in direct response to the major gambling restrictions on Twitch.

To its credit, Kick has also implemented many pro-creator initiatives, including a 95/5 subscription split between the creator and the platform. Twitch infamously has a 50/50 split for most creators and 70/30 for the upper echelons -- and salaries for some content creators.

Many big names have signed to the platform: Adin Ross, xQc, Nickmercs, Amouranth, Trainwreckstv (a co-owner of Kick), Ice Poseidon, Ac7ionMan and JennFoxxx, to name a few.

However, there are some common threads between all of these creators.

One is their penchant for gambling, and another is that they have all experienced controversy -- and with some, major controversies.

Adin Ross broke guidelines for hateful conduct on Twitch by showing his un-moderated Kick chat messages before fully switching platforms, which included anti-semitic and racist rhetoric. He is a proud supporter of Andrew Tate, an extremely controversial social-media personality who has been called "the king of toxic masculinity" because of his openly misogynistic views.  

Ross frequently exhibits misogynistic views on his platform as well as transphobic dog whistles with regard to gender. He even livestreamed a call with an anonymous man wearing a swastika.

xQc was very outspoken against Twitch's gambling bans, and although he claims the reason for his move to Kick was not simply about gambling or the money, he engaged in a massive internet feud with many creators.

Nickmercs expressed and backed homophobic propaganda on social media concerning LGBTQ+ initiatives at schools and faced huge backlash as well as an influx of support.

Amouranth and JennFoxxx are both OnlyFans content creators and frequently streamed on Twitch with erotic undertones to promote their content. As a result, they were often banned from Twitch -- a moderation problem that the website is still struggling with.

Kick currently lacks significant moderation -- especially around hate speech and some pornographic content. Adin Ross infamously showed pornography on stream “on accident."

The platform has become a haven for gambling and controversial figures while also looking to improve the streaming ecosystem. Although Kick's CEO said advanced moderation would be on the way soon (in April 2023), apparently it is still on the way.

And just this month, Twitch took a stronger stance on implied nudity. Around a month ago, Twitch embarrassingly allowed for “artistic nudity” on the platform, kicking off a series of odd situations involving nude drawings, with black bars blurring private parts.

These changes were promptly rolled back a day later, but the chaos was obvious and raised many questions about “fair treatment” of the differences in punishment for female vs. male streamers creating and disseminating sexual content on the platform.

The lines of “free speech” and “hate speech” are becoming blurred with platforms like Kick and Rumble, another alt-tech platform where figures like Andrew Tate publish content.

Modern 13- to-21-year-old males are demonstrating increasingly aggressive levels of toxic masculinity and hate speech, as shown in one eye-opening video of Sneako, a creator who was banned permanently from YouTube for violating its guidelines.

The video showcases young boys coming up to him at a public venue, looking to connect with the creator by using hate speech toward women and LGBTQ+ people, among other things, as he poses for pictures with them.

At the end of 2023, one of my key clients asked about Kick, saying “I've heard about this new platform and I want us to be on the cutting edge.” 

I had to flag the brand-safety issue. While the majority of creators on the Kick platform are meeting guidelines for content moderation, the biggest faces on Kick are deep in controversy that no brand would want to support.

Finding content creators and platforms to work with now isn’t just about who they are and what they do. It's about what their platform stands for, who else is in their orbit, what headlines are coming out about them.

All in all, the streaming wars are no longer simply about where the views are going.

Creators are drawing lines in the sand through their platform choices, while the platforms themselves are going through identity crises as communities and creators are emboldened to speak up amid their various factions.

My hope is that these platforms will embrace their differences -- not by permitting offensive or controversial content, but by offering creators and viewers alternatives to their viewing experience.

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