The Twitch SuperStar Effect: The Shocking Inequality in Payouts

Twitch.tv is one of the most popular live streaming platforms on the internet. Millions of people go to Twitch every day to watch their favorite gamers, artists, cooks and more stream live video.

While Twitch has created opportunities for people to make money doing what they love, there are also clear inequalities when it comes to how much money streamers can realistically make. This article explores monetization and some of these inequalities on Twitch. 

How Twitch Streamers Make Money 

How

There are a few main ways streamers can make money on Twitch:

Subscriptions – Viewers can subscribe to a channel for $5 per month to get special emotes and perks. The streamer gets half of this subscription fee. Popular streamers have thousands of subscribers.  

Tips – Viewers can send small tips called “bits” during a stream. These donate a few cents each to the streamer.

Advertising – Twitch allows partners to run video or display ads during breaks in streaming. Money made from ads is split with Twitch.

Sponsorships – Big streamers might get brand deals and sponsorships from companies that pay them to promote products or services.

Merchandise – Selling branded merchandise is another revenue stream for the top creators.

Inequality in Earnings

Earnings

Despite various monetization methods, there is a huge inequality when it comes to how much money streamers actually make:   

Top 1% – The very top streamers like Ninja, Shroud and Pokimane can make millions per year. These big names have turned streaming into major media brands and businesses.

Top 10% – Streamers in the top 10% average around $50k per year. To reach this income level takes building a large viewership over years of full time streaming.

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Below Average – Over half of all streamers make $1k or less per year according to data. Many stream part time or have very small viewerships, making monetization difficult.

Getting big on Twitch and building a business around streaming takes time. Most people starting out make little money for a long time before slowly growing an audience.

Why Such Inequality Exists  

Why in equality in Twitch

A few key factors drive such inequality of income among streamers on Twitch:

Popularity Driven Platform – More views and followers directly equals more money making potential through ads, subscribers, etc. Top talent pulls the most income. Established personalities with marketing machines tend to dominate.

Entertainment Is Competitive – Streaming entertainment is much like Hollywood or professional sports – only a tiny fraction of those trying make it big compared to the many attempting to break through. Most creators simply don’t gain enough viewers in such a crowded field to monetize consistently.   

Viewer Support – Ultimately fans have to voluntarily spend bits, donate subs and click ads to drive streamer revenue. If viewership isn’t large or supportive enough, income hits a ceiling quickly.

Twitch differs from many other user generated content platforms in that success is heavily weighted on viewers actively choosing to spend money to support a creator’s channel rather than views or followers alone.

This means disparity is inevitable without somehow regulating or fundamentally changing consumer behavior on the platform.

Twitch Improving Monetization and Access 

Twitch

While disparity may be expected based on how Twitch works, there are still things it could do to improve monetization rates and access for more small to mid-tier streamers:  

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– Allow more creators access to advertising and other monetization tools rather than only partners  

– Create more initiatives that specifically recommend and promote up and coming talent  

– Build features that make it simple for viewers to financially support the creators they watch with tips or subs

– Experiment with new monetization features like digital goods sales

The platform relies on quality content creators to drive viewership and revenue. Investing in the next generation of streaming talent could have long term benefits even if it only chips away at inequality issues rather than eliminating them.

The Bottom Line  

Twitch empowers people to make money doing what they love but their earnings potential varies wildly. Like any entertainment industry, just a few at the very top are making big money. Still, streaming opens up opportunities that didn’t exist before to turn playing games, making creative content and engaging an audience into a career. 

While the inequality is stark between the biggest names and anonymous streamers starting out, Twitch has helped many achieve incomes they would not have found elsewhere even if not reaching stardom.  

With improvements to tools, access and exposure, Twitch can keep working towards making streaming financially viable for more people. Though market dynamics mean runaway inequality may continue regardless.

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