November 27, 2020

Twitch’s No Good, Very Bad Time Continues: Part 2

By Timothy Geigner
I won’t write up a big summary of the ongoing turmoil in the Twitch community for this post. If you need to be brought up to speed, go see Part 1 or our previous posts on the platform. The only summary you really need is that the past few months have seen Twitch piss nearly everyone off by doing two things. First, it bowed to the RIAA over DMCA notices and nuked a ton of creator content without warning. Second, Twitch began experimenting with very intrusive ads, along with other methods for monetizing creator content. The PR communication coming from Twitch over all of this has been wanting, to say the least.

But now it looks like Twitch is looking to tie a bow around both controversies to continue to piss off its talent even more, having announced that the once-sought-after Twitch Affiliate status, earned through a streamer’s ability to get consistent eyeballs, has now been reduced to a pay-to-play scheme involving at least one record label.

Here’s the text from Twitch’s Affiliate site detailing who qualifies.

Who qualifies?

We’re looking for streamers who aren’t yet Partners, but who have at least 50 followers and over the last 30 days have have at least 500 total minutes broadcast, 7 unique broadcast days, and an average of 3 or more concurrent viewers. This criteria may change as the program develops.

That’s been upended by this new deal worked out with music label Monstercat.

Monstercat outlined the new program in a post on its website today. If streamers subscribe to Monstercat Gold for $5 per month, they now gain access not only to a library of songs they can play during their streams, but also Twitch affiliate status. Affiliate is Twitch’s first monetization tier, which allows streamers to gain paid subscribers and Bits, which are basically a donation currency. Before this year, the only way to become an affiliate was to unlock it by having at least 50 followers, 500 total minutes broadcast, an average of 3 or more concurrent viewers, and streaming on 7 different days.

This is similar to a program that Twitch launched with SoundCloud earlier this year, which allowed SoundCloud subscribers to get fast-tracked to affiliate status. But that promotion was focused on musicians. This one, theoretically, is aimed at everybody.

In other words, for $5 a month, you can be a Twitch affiliate. If it seems like that makes the affiliate program mostly meaningless other than as a revenue source for both a music label and Twitch, that’s because it does. It also comes after years of Twitch guarding its affiliate status behind merit-based metrics, which led to a ton of work being done by Twitch streamers to get that status. This is a slap in the face to all of those streamers that earned their status as opposed to paying for it.

“This seems amazingly unfair to all those folks who have worked hard to get to affiliate, but it also feels like it lessens the value of an affiliate status if you can just buy your way in,” Spawn On Me’s Kahlief Adams said on Twitter.

“I think this is not good, kind of gross, and…a little exploitative?” said commentator and streamer Thom “F.” Badinger. “Also depressing how the platform sees its creators with an issue and thinks of it as a monetization opportunity vs something they should help with.”

This Monstercat promotion, then, just turns long-simmering subtext into text: Affiliate and partner status don’t mean anything. They’re just means of incentivizing streamers to do what Twitch wants. Before, that was streaming. Now it’s giving money to companies with which Twitch has made deals. Twitch business partners, at least, must be pleased.

All of which seems to suggest that Twitch doesn’t understand that its most valuable asset is the talent that chooses to stream on Twitch. Without good streamers producing good content, Twitch is a nothing. And the consistent drumbeat pissing off that talent cannot possibly be good for Twitch in the near or long term.

Honestly, at this point I’m mostly just waiting to see what Act 3 of Twitch’s No Good, Very Bad Time will be.