The number of streamers making money on Twitch nearly doubled this year, as the popularity of Fortnite and the platform’s broadening scope drew more and more viewers. Twitch has been seen as the most competitive mainstream threat to YouTube as it continues to grow — but it still hasn’t managed to pull top YouTube creators away from their main platform.
Twitch remains a relatively small service for creators: hundreds of thousands of streamers are generating revenue now, representing an 86 percent increase between 2017 and 2018 in how many broadcasters were being paid. Breakout stars like Fortnite player Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who stated he earns six figures a month just from streaming, have shown that the platform can become a profitable place for creators looking to get discovered.
“I really leaned into Twitch hard when I wasn’t producing YouTube videos,” Neistat told The Verge. “I was taking a break from YouTube while I was getting [production company and creator incubator] 368 off the ground.”
Twitch added a huge number of streamers and viewers this year on the back of Fortnite’s exploding popularity. The number of monthly streamers increased from two million a month in 2017 to three million in 2018, according to Twitch, with more than 500,000 people streaming daily. The platform saw more than 434 billion minutes watched by people in 2018.
Simply put, Twitch is big — and it’s attracting more streamers than ever. But although YouTube creators flocked to Twitch to get in on the Fortnite hype and a seemingly booming base of viewers, few have stuck around.
Experimenting with something new
As YouTube began to crack down on controversial creators and advertisers moved away from the platform, many of YouTube’s top stars saw Twitch as an alternative way to generate revenue. That included Neistat, as well as Jake Paul, Logan Paul, and Chance Sutton, a former member of Jake Paul’s Team 10. Whether it was specifically to play Fortnite — Logan Paul invested in a $6,000 computer and designed an entire streaming room — or just to test out livestreaming a vlog, the YouTuber invasion of Twitch had begun.
It didn’t take long after moving over for YouTube creators to realize that Twitch wasn’t just a different platform, but encouraged different talents. Neistat says the platforms serve different audience, and that YouTube’s is still bigger and a better fit for his style of videos. There’s a difference between uploading a daily edited video to YouTube that often requires hours of filming, and livestreaming eight hours a day while interacting continuously with a live audience.
“For someone like me who is much more about the creativity than I am about the communication, YouTube is the best platform in the world for that,” Neistat said, explaining that he enjoyed the creative editing and shooting freedom YouTube provided. “That’s why I haven’t leaned into Twitch more.”
YouTube can also be an easier way to generate income for smaller creators. The YouTube Partner Program requires 4,000 total hours of channel watchtime and more than 1,000 subscribers. Highly edited videos, interesting topics, and a little bit of luck can all help a creator earn that status. Once they’re in the program, they can start earning ad revenue.
YouTube allows creators to make money off of ads and affiliate links, which can be lucrative, says Nicholas Tetrault, a YouTuber with more than 50,000 subscribers who focuses on electronic music and technology reviews. On Twitch, viewers have to pay a $4.99 monthly subscription fee to support a streamer or make a discrete donation — and viewers coming from YouTube, where everything is free, may not be willing to pay.
“I like YouTube a lot because users and viewers don’t have to fork over any money,” Tetrault said. “And the only way that I’m getting paid is through advertisements and referrals. Twitch is a totally different culture with the subscription and perks.”
Twitch is still home for many
While YouTubers have struggled to make the jump, others have found Twitch makes more sense for the audience they’re trying to reach. Top gaming streamers, like Dr DisRespect, Dr. Lupo, and Summit1G, are excellent examples of how fame on Twitch can often translate to six-figure-a-month incomes.
More Twitch streamers are finding a permanent home on the platform. More than 7,800 broadcasters this year were given Partner status, which allows them to create exclusive and personalized emotes (personalized icons that make up Twitch’s language in chat sidebars) for their subscribers to buy. Even more are just starting their careers. More than 248,000 streamers were given affiliate status, according to Twitch, allowing them to make money on Twitch for the very first time. Becoming an affiliate means streamers have amassed at least 500 minutes of broadcasting in the past 30 days, seven unique broadcasts in 30 days, and a minimum of 50 followers. That’s far less than YouTube’s 1,000 subscriber requirement and 4,000 hours total watch time.
There are Reddit threads chock full of testimonies from streamers, both those who consider themselves part-time casters and others who operate on a full-time schedule, about how much they make on a month-to-month basis. Some streamers discussed receiving donations for new computer parts in order to run certain games and the joy they felt over receiving their first $100 check.
Thomas Biery, a games writer and former Polygon intern, says he’s made more than $1,000 since he started streaming back in June. (Polygon is a sister site of The Verge.)
“To most people, that is not a lot of money,” Biery says. “But to me, someone who just graduated from college and someone who has a part-time job, that money means that I don’t have to see a big chunk of my savings go to rent. It’s a significant boost to my income.”
Part of the reason Biery chose Twitch is because the platform offers him a lot more freedom than he found on others he’s toyed around with — including YouTube. He hasn’t had trouble with clips being taken down or monetization being frozen, even when he’s streamed alongside copyrighted material.
“The best thing about Twitch is that they leave me alone, and they let me do what I want to do,” he said. “And that’s my number one thing, really.”