Today, live-streaming platform Caffeine is announcing that it has a new group of celebrity creators joining its service, in what the platform is calling a “creator drop.” It has brought on basketball players Collin Sexton and Kyle Kuzma, football player JuJu Smith-Schuster, and musician Doja Cat. Caffeine already has people like Lil Xan, Offset, The Game, and LaMelo Ball. As a bit player in the live-streaming wars, the platform’s strategy is to recruit celebrities — and, crucially, their audiences — to shoot to relevance.
The new stars will mostly be gaming, although Doja Cat will also occasionally be making music. Caffeine did, however, give Smith-Schuster a recurring show on the platform — Smith-Schuster’s, “Catchin’ W’s with JuJu” had an 16-episode order — in what seems to be a push for more regular, TV-like programming. (In general, live-streamers decide what they’re going to stream for the day, and they don’t have to follow a regular format.)
What’s interesting about these new additions to Caffeine is how well-known they are. Doja Cat (real name Amala Dlamini) rose to viral fame last August on the strength of her song “Mooo!”; Collin Sexton was the eighth overall draft pick in the 2018 NBA draft; Kyle Kuzma was the 27th overall pick in the NBA the year before; and JuJu Smith-Schuster was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft. They’re all undoubtedly very good at what they do, but they aren’t household names — at least not yet.
This is where the good idea that Caffeine CEO Ben Keighran and co. have for their platform — recruit celebrities, profit from their fan bases — runs into the realities of cost and interest. To get a known quantity like, say, T-Pain — who already has built a relatively large audience over on Twitch — it’s necessarily going to cost more than it might for a person with a smaller audience. It’s also important to note that T-Pain, who has 2.1 million followers on Instagram and 1.2 million on Twitter, only has 143k over on Twitch; it suggests the audiences for celebrities who are famous for other things are a lot different than the ones who want to watch them stream.
That is why it’s hard to predict how well this new crop of Caffeine streamers is going to do. They have high social stats across the board, but it’s hard to say what part of their audiences will want to follow them over to a new service. Live-streaming is cool, but it isn’t like any of the other social platforms because it requires a different kind of time commitment. Streams are live for a certain number of hours, and viewers drop in and out depending on the vagaries of their schedules for the day, which is why bigger streamers generally stay live for longer.
What’s going to be interesting, at least in terms of success for the platform, is the new talent’s conversion rate: what percentage of each celebrity’s fan base will come to the stream and then, crucially, stick around. While I’m sure each person Caffeine has recruited is enthusiastic about streaming, none of them has streamed in a professional capacity before. That wouldn’t matter, except for the fact that, in live-streaming, it’s very difficult to build and then retain a fan base. With some exceptions, big streamers found their audiences because of their streams, not because they already had a large, built-in audience.
Caffeine is right to bet that the success of a platform is dependent on the people who create things on it. But it’s much safer to bet on known quantities. The thing about gambling is that, in the end, the house always wins because that’s how it’s been designed.
Correction: JuJu Smith-Schuster’s show received a 16-episode order. An earlier version of this post stated it was an 18-episode order.