Twitch has started automatically running ads in the middle of streams for some viewers. It’s been very careful to frame the move as an experiment, probably because the company knows backlash from the community is coming.
Here’s what you need to know. The ads will run across affiliate and partnered channels; creators will get paid for every ad that runs; and picture-in-picture viewing is enabled for all channels, so theoretically the ads won’t be too disruptive. If you pay to subscribe to a channel, you won’t see these ads, and if you pay to subscribe to Twitch, using Turbo, you won’t see them either.
Anyway, here’s an artist’s rendition of what the experience might look like in practice, courtesy of Twitter user @GottaBeHenry.
Platform controlled mid roll ads on live streams are G A R B A G E pic.twitter.com/KTtLbNHVEs— henry (@GottaBeHenry) September 15, 2020
Mid-roll ads have been a part of Twitch for a long while now, but historically they’ve been controlled by streamers. In Twitch’s Creator Camp — the place where they tell you best practices for the site if you want to be a streamer yourself — Twitch says that creators should tell their community that an ad break is coming. “When creators and/or moderators run ads manually, we recommend communicating to your viewers when an ad break is initiating,” Twitch writes, which you can’t do when Twitch is running them for you.
Twitch ad revenue is generally quite low for most streamers, as it’s based on CPM rates — which basically mean you’re paid a certain amount of money per 1,000 views. According to the basic affiliates and partner contract, the amount is the same: you earn $3.50 per 1,000 views, although the breakdown fluctuates in some territories for partners.
For me, an affiliate, that translated to making $2.26 last month; a friend of mine who’s a partner pulled down a full $6.62. (Don’t worry. We’re not spending it all in one place.)
Personally, I can’t think of anything worse for a live gaming site than ads that might play while something actually cool happens. But I get it: Twitch’s new mid-roll experiment will probably juice ad revenues in the short term. In the slightly longer term, it’ll probably increase the cash flow the platform gets from subscriptions and Turbo — just because people hate ads. Uncontrollable mid-roll ads especially.