Game streamers on Twitch and other platforms will make $100 million by the end of this year in tips alone. Thinking about getting in on the action? Our look at the Twitch Affiliate versus Twitch Partner programs will let you know:
- What the top streamers get from Twitch
- How up-and-coming streamers can start earning
- Whether Twitch Prime’s free benefits hurts streamer earnings
- Nearly 400,000 active streamers every month
- More than 15,000 people streaming simultaneously
- Almost 750,000 viewers tuned in at any given time
Twitch’s nearest competitor YouTube Gaming Live is in distant second place with 115,000 active monthly streamers and with 9,300 simultaneous streamers to a 319,000-viewer audience.
One of the reasons for Twitch’s popularity is the way it shares revenue with the people creating their own live streams – its “broadcasters”. Twitch fosters a community of outstanding talent and gives new broadcasters hope that their gameplay on Twitch will launch their own careers.
Twitch Partner Program
The Twitch Partner Program has been around since the streaming service’s launch. Besides giving the most popular broadcasters ways to make money from their gameplay and other videos, it also offers many benefits for improving their followers’ experience.
Only seventeen thousand of the more than two million broadcasters on Twitch have earned Partner status. It is an exclusive membership program for broadcasters who bring the most to Twitch.
Becoming a Twitch Partner is not an automatic process. Content creators who want to join that elite group must apply for the privilege and prove that they meet several criteria based on their audience, content, and contribution to the Twitch community.
First off, potential Twitch Partners must already have a large audience for their video streams. Twitch has a strict definition of audience size called concurrent viewership which measures the number of people viewing a stream at the same time.
Focusing on concurrent viewership avoids the shenanigans that other streaming services play with follower-counts and viewer-counts. Follower count treats drive-by visitors and true fans the same. View counts at many online services include anybody who had an autoplay video start playing in the background. Only concurrent viewership measures how video streams engage viewers.
Twitch also judges Partner applicants on how frequently and consistently they produce content – most Partners post at least three times a week so their followers have a constant feed of new videos to watch.
Content quality counts too. Anyone who wants to make Partner has to stand out from the crowd of nearly 400,000 people streaming videos every month. OMGitsfirefoxx became the most popular female Twitch broadcaster for her dedication to playing a wide range of games. Bennyfitts is a big blue puppet who kicks butt.
The way broadcasters behave matters. Broadcasters who engage their audiences and treat them with respect have a much better chance of becoming a partner than those who break Twitch’s Community Guidelines.
Harassment and hate speech, for example, are zero-tolerance zones for Twitch. Anyone who regularly triggers Twitch’s standards of behavior has little chance to make it into the upper echelons of the streaming community.
Broadcasters who tick all the boxes are not automatically granted Partner status. A rejection from Twitch’s review team does not mean that a broadcaster will never make Partner – it could just mean that they have to try harder to stand out from the crowd.
As Twitch explains in its Tips for Applying to the Partner Program:
“…we encourage all of our broadcasters to try again when the time is right. Continue to improve your craft, and work to find the thing that will separate your channel from the pack.”
There’s more to the Partner Program than money alone, but the money definitely matters. The chance to make money off of gameplay videos through the Partner Program helped drive Twitch’s phenomenal growth over the past six years.
Here’s how monetization works on Twitch.
Twitch Partners get a share of the revenue generated by subscriptions. In exchange for their $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99 monthly payment, Twitch broadcasters give subscribers exclusive benefits.
Twitch introduced the Cheering system in 2016 to let viewers give tips to their favorite broadcasters for excellent gameplay, entertaining performance and commitment to their communities.
Streamlabs estimates that tipping revenue across all of the live streaming services will reach $100 million by the end of 2017.
Twitch viewers can reward skilled or entertaining gameplay by posting a “Cheer” into the video stream’s chat along with a Bit emoticon, or Cheermote. Viewers buy the Cheermotes by clicking an icon in the chat window. Prices range from $0.014 per Bit to $0.012 per Bit depending on the Cheermote purchased. Partners get a penny for each Bit fans use to Cheer.
Sales and Advertising
Like many other online video services, Twitch pays broadcasters a share of the advertising revenue.
Video streams on Twitch open and close with a brief advertisement. Ads can also appear throughout the broadcaster’s stream.
Twitch Partners get a 5% share of the revenue generated when viewers buy games or in-game content from the Partner’s channel page.
Twitch helps its Partners do more to engage with their viewers because they believe that better engagement will translate into higher revenues overall. Most of the benefits surround exclusive swag and services to encourage a Partner’s viewers to subscribe.
Custom emotes and badges
Emotes and badges create and reinforce the strong sense of community within Twitch. The Partner can unlock up to 50 subscriber emotes by reaching certain performance thresholds.
Slow mode is a feature that delays messages before they appear in a channel’s chat room. Partners can set that delay anywhere from one second to a full day. They can also remove those limits so subscribers’ chat messages appear instantly.
Partners can give subscribers exclusive experiences by making the entire channel subscriber-only or by locking down individual live broadcasts.
Another Partner exclusive is guaranteed access to the “transcode” system that lets viewers change the quality of the channel’s stream.
Streaming requires a lot of resources behind the scenes, so Twitch lets Partners charge their fans to access HD streams. Depending on the quality of the video stream the Partner creates, viewers can switch between:
- Full HD High Framerate (1080p @ 60 frames per second)
- Full HD standard Framerate (1080p @ 30 fps)
- HD High Framerate (720p @ 60 fps)
- HD Standard Framerate (720p @ 30 fps)
- SD High Framerate (480p @ 60 fps)
By default, subscribers get ad-free access to Partner channels so they can enjoy videos without commercial breaks. This does lower the revenue Partners make on advertising – Twitch estimates by about 3% – but the incentive increases subscription revenue even more.
Although it is not as exciting, Twitch has a few accounting policies that benefit Partners. Twitch offers pays out revenue earned during the month 45 days after the month ends – or in accounting-speak, “net-45” payment terms.
The distribution of cash from a Partner’s Twitch account goes through a third-party service that charges for each transaction. Twitch covers the payment processing fees out of its own pocket.
Partners also get priority technical support, access to beta features, opportunities for promotional features of the Twitch front page and more.
Twitch Affiliate Program
Becoming a Partner is daunting. Building the viewership, style and other aspects of an up-and-coming broadcaster takes such a long time that many people simply gave up or never even try it in the first place.
Twitch launched the Twitch Affiliate Program in 2016 to encourage more people to provide an easier path to the Partner Program.
In October 2017 Twitch announced that “Within six months after its launch, over 110,000 creators have joined the program.”
Let’s see what makes the Affiliate Program so popular.
Broadcasters become Affiliates by showing they are committed to the Twitch platform. At the same time, they don’t have to leap the high hurdles set for Partners. In fact, becoming a Twitch Affiliate is almost instantaneous once a broadcaster reaches these performance metrics over the course of a 30-day period:
- At least 50 followers
- Average concurrent viewership of 3 or more
- Posts 500 minutes of broadcast video across at least 7 unique broadcast days.
Once that happens, Twitch automatically issues an invitation. Broadcasters simply register, give Amazon their tax information, and set up their payment options.
Affiliates get the same revenue share (almost)
Once set up, Affiliates can start generating revenue in many of the same ways as Partners:
- $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99 monthly subscription levels.
- Penny-per-Bit payments for Cheers in their channels’ chat rooms.
- Share 5% of game sale revenue made through their Channels.
In fact, the only revenue source Affiliates can’t access right now is ad revenue. Twitch plans to roll that out to Affiliates in the near future.
What Affiliates don’t get
Where the Affiliate Program differs from the Partner Program is in all the extras.
No tailored experience
Affiliates can only offer a single emote to subscribers compared to the 50 emotes Partners offer. In addition, the Affiliates can’t offer customized Cheermotes to subscribers who Cheer with Bits.
Twitch sets Affiliates behind Partners but ahead of ordinary broadcasters for its transcode system. That means Affiliates’ viewers are more likely to get a better experience, but may or may not be able to change the video quality settings during periods of peak demand.
Less generous terms
Twitch takes longer to pay Affiliates. Where Partner get paid every 45 days, Affiliates must wait two months to get the money they earned in a given month. (That’s “net-60” for those keeping track.)
Twitch says that with tens of thousands of transactions to process, it takes longer to ensure Affiliates don’t get hit with chargeback fees for fraudulent payments.
Affiliates also must pay the transaction fees Twitch’s payment processor charges. These range from $0.60 per transfer for United States-based bank deposits all the way up to $20.50 for PayPal transfers outside the United States.
Amazon bought Twitch back in 2014. A couple of years later it added Twitch as a benefit to its various membership programs. The Twitch Prime Program gives extra benefits to Twitch members who are also members of either Amazon Prime or Amazon Prime Video.
When it first rolled out in September 2016, Twitch Prime was only available to Amazon Prime members in the North American and European countries where Amazon Prime was available.
In June 2017, Amazon rolled its Twitch Prime benefits worldwide to include members of Prime Video. That raised the number of countries and territories eligible for Twitch Prime over the 200 mark. The countries notably absent from the list are China, India, and Japan.
Twitch Prime members get a range of benefits that add even more value to their Amazon Prime or Prime Video memberships:
- Free characters, skins and other in-game items
- View all video streams without advertising
- Free 30-day subscriptions every 30 days.
- Discounts on pre-release games bought through Amazon
- Free or discounted shipping on pre-release games
- Teen membership through parents’ Prime accounts
Impact on Twitch Affiliates and Partners
Several of the benefits Twitch Prime members get have the potential to reduce Affiliate and Partner revenue, but Twitch sets policies that keep that from happening.
Even though Twitch Prime members get an ad-free experience, Twitch counts those members as viewers for the purpose of paying its Affiliates and Partners.
In the same way, even though the Twitch Prime members are not paying anything during their 30-day free subscriptions, Twitch pays Affiliates and Partners as if the subscriptions were paid.
The Journey to Gaming Income
Twitch isn’t done developing its Affiliate and Partner programs. Newly announced features include Premieres to boost special live broadcasts, Rituals to create more engagement among subscribers and Achievements to help broadcast measure their progress to Affiliate and Partner status.
Everything Twitch does to enhance its broadcasters’ revenue-generating potential creates powerful incentives to create more and better content. That makes Twitch even more of a destination for viewers and creates a better experience for everyone involved.
Chris Casper is a former tech industry product manager who escaped from California for New Mexico. Now he writes about science and tech while searching for the perfect green chile sauce.