Twitch, the main platform for live video games and other types of entertainment, has had a long season of ups and downs. Successive changes in the distribution of money between the platform and streamers, economic doubts and the apparent drop in audience have raised doubts about its reliability. "There was a growing sense that streamers didn't feel like we were taking care of them," says Mike Minton, Twitch's Head of Monetization, in this videoconference interview with EL PAÍS.
Since March, with a new chief executive, Dan Clancy, the company has been trying to re-establish ties and trust with its creator community. "The best example has been Clancy in the van, who spent three weeks driving around the southeastern United States meeting streamers and listening to them," says Minton. Clancy's Twitter/X account is a trail of cute photos with streamers, both American and Latin American.
Enjoyed the Q&A session with LATAM partners pic.twitter.com/58G8IWgToM
— Daniel Clancy (@djclancy999) October 22, 2023
Twitch's effort has also reached its community in Spain. According to company data shared with EL PAÍS, streaming in Spanish is the fastest-growing language on Twitch. "From 2019 to 2022, Twitch viewers increased sixfold, with Spanish going from the seventh most-watched language to the second, behind only English."
The pandemic was the inflection point of that growth. A handful of famous YouTubers such as Auronplay or elRubius had moved their main channel to Twitch. And with the help of Ibai Llanos, the main creator of Twitch in Spanish, the live network grew and caught a new generation of fans. Proof of that success, and of the attention it deserves, is that Dan Clancy visited Ibai Llanos' channel to explain why technical errors had hurt his numbers on the last evening. Last June, in Madrid, a boxing event between creators called La velada was the largest live show in the history of that platform, with almost 3.5 million simultaneous viewers.
1. But is Twitch viewership dropping?
"We're going down" in Spain, celebrated streamer Cristinini said on her Twitch channel, about the platform's audiences in Spain. Cristinini was responding to his audience, who wrote to him via chat, but a clip of a couple of minutes went extremely viral on X. That audience hasn't completely gone away, according to Cristinini. Many of them were Latin American, and in recent years Mexican or Argentinian creators have grown a lot. But Twitch admits that the audience problem doesn't just affect Spanish streamers.
🟣Cristinini talks about the drop in viewers on Twitch Spain:
"We've all burned out a lot and it shows."
"We're going down, beating ourselves up brutally." pic.twitter.com/zdJd34BhqO
— Movistar eSports (@MovistareSports) October 5, 2023
With the end of lockdown and the return to outside life, Twitch has suffered. Live streams are more intimate and personal than a simple YouTube video. Live chat and a sense of community are the key to the platform. If there's less free time at home, such a platform is going to suffer: "Every content creator has been aware of this," says Minton. "Especially on Twitch, where you know people's free time is precious. As we've gotten back to normal and viewers had less time, streamers noticed."
Clancy, the executive chairman, admitted as much in his chat with Ibai: "Of course Twitch isn't on the scale it was during the pandemic, but we're not the only platform that's not on the same level. So we saw a lot of growth and now a lot of people have come back to their lives, they can't come to Twitch as regularly anymore. Twitch should be a platform that people should use even if they don't have a lot of time. There are people who, if they can't spend the same amount of time on Twitch, sometimes end up disappearing. Our goal should be to help them maintain that connection with Twitch, despite being short on time," he said.
Despite these statements from Milton and Clancy, the data the platform shares only indicates more growth: "On average, there are more than 35 million daily users on Twitch, up from 31 million in 2022," says a spokeswoman. Confronted with the statements of their bosses, they only explain it in terms of the variability that large streamers can suffer and that this data is global.
Minton doesn't want to make more light of fluctuations either: "We're pretty happy with where we are. When you have these big moments of growth, you're always a little bit worried about what's going to happen next and I would say, for the most part, we're pretty happy with where we are in terms of what we've retained, of what streamers have retained in their communities," he adds.
2. We're going to take care of you
As Head of Monetization, his big concern is that streamers continue to enter and the deliveries with the platform are clear. "Our focus is on how to help streamers make more money with the same audience size. One of the metrics I always look at to normalize the difference between large and small incomes is how much money they make per viewer hour. In Europe, they largely earn around 20% more per hour from advertising. As audiences don't grow as fast or in some cases contract, we really have a lot of work to do to make sure their profits continue to grow," he adds.
The platform's recent big announcement is a program called Partner Plus, which is yet another milestone for medium-sized streamers. Twitch has two broad categories: affiliates and partners. To become an affiliate and start earning something, all you need is eight hours on seven different days, and an average of three viewers. Partners need an average of 75 viewers. In June, Twitch announced the plus partners, which need 350 paying subscribers for three consecutive months. Each of these categories gives better economic benefits in the distribution with Twitch.
Minton's goal is to create a clear roadmap, so streamers know what to expect at every stage of their career. "Not everyone wants to make a living on Twitch, but a lot of people have that goal and we want to support them as they move forward. Some of the most important things we want to give beginners are milestones to follow. It's like unlocking emotes [more sophisticated emojis]: the more subscribers you have, the more emote spaces you'll have online. We've made it deliberately very easy to become an affiliate and start making money from the service and then for many streamers, the road to becoming a partner is a very long journey. What we're looking at is how we can offer achievement programs, more intermediate steps and where the community can come together around those moments," she explains.
One of those aids is collaborating with brands to sponsor smaller creators: "Brands tend to work with large streamers because that reduces their overhead, but we can help raise awareness with others because we have more data on them. We can help package and bring to brands a set of smaller streamers. It's a solution in terms of sponsorship," he says.
3. But if you're Spanish, I don't know you
The Spaniard is Twitch's second-largest community, but Minton only knows Ibai. It's not their job, but Auronplay or theGrefg or the recent Kings League event are phenomena with global impact. Not for Minton: "The only Spaniard that comes to mind is Ibai. The language barrier is tough. He's the one who immediately comes to mind."
Minton also doesn't explain why the Spanish community is the one that has created something like The Evening or other events. As an example, he cites the Streamer Awards, created by Cutie Cinderella just weeks after the success of the Esland Awards, created by theGrefg.
Nor do they have a very clear explanation as to why the Spanish language is on the rise. "A few days ago, we were talking about the growth of Twitch and looking back, and Jacob Woodsey, our design director, recognized that communities are global and that they were really focused on making sure that there were no barriers between communities. In this case, language is the connection between streamers in Mexico and Spain, for example. The service was built on that, as if the view of the world from a gaming community could be global."
4. What if they go to other platforms?
One of the main dangers for platforms like Twitch is the flight of talent to YouTube or other new ones like Kick. Ibai told Clancy that he might as well take La velada to TV. Is Minton worried? "Generally not. We're happy for streamers when they find opportunities that work for them. A few years ago, it was certainly a very different environment in terms of the relationship between creators and services. We've now come to recognize their ambitions to grow and build an audience across multiple services, and that's okay. That's just the way it is, whether it's TikTok or other live streaming services, that's what streamers want and what they need to do."
Twitch has just announced that it will allow streams to be watched simultaneously on other platforms.
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