Thursday, April 02, 2015

Players Sponsoring Themselves on Twitch

Was reading about Twitch this week. Hadn’t realized it had begun as a spinoff from the old, which I recall having tuned into occasionally in the past, including during those early marathon-streaming days of the old Quadjacks who I believe moved there at some point not long after Black Friday. began back in 2007, then in 2011 created Twitch as a kind of separate network just for video gaming and “e-sports” competitions. The latter grew in popularity, then last summer was shut down so the parent company (Twitch Interactive) could focus just on Twitch.

Back in February PokerNews did an article suggesting 10 poker-related Twitch accounts to follow. Last month Eric Raskin wrote an interesting piece for All In looking at Twitch from a more theoretical point of view and relating it to other forms of “life streaming” whereby people turn their lives into shows for others to watch. (Twitter functions like that for some, I think, as I was writing about yesterday.)

BLUFF just ran a long profile of Scott Ball, a.k.a. “The Man Behind Twitch’s Poker Explosion,” which includes an overview of the site’s brief history and increasing involvement with poker.

Even The Wall Street Journal has written about Twitch becoming a destination for online poker players and those who enjoy watching others play (and/or learning about poker, too). The WSJ article cited a statistic that “In January, Twitch streamed 56 million minutes of poker, less than 1% of the total 16 billion minutes of streamed video on the site.” There were only 44,640 minutes in January, so I suppose that means an average of about 1,250 poker-related streams were live every minute of every day that month -- more than I’d have guessed.

Those who are able to get 500 or more viewers to watch their streams consistently are eligible to have a subscriber button put on their channels, which in turn becomes a way for viewers to subscribe for $4.99 a month (half of which goes to Twitch). Subscribers can then be offered extras such as special programming, access to archives, and so on.

Those who have Twitch channels can also derive income by selling advertising (with the revenue also shared 50/50 with Twitch). Twitchers can additionally get sponsorships or collect donations as a way to “monetize” what they’re doing, and in the case of poker players who are also coaches, they can use their Twitch channels to direct folks to purchase other content, hire them as coaches, and so on.

It struck me that with the paucity of online poker sponsorships post-Black Friday, Twitch has become a form of “self-sponsorship” for a not insignificant number of players, kind of analogous to self-publishing or other kinds of independently-produced content (e.g., music, video/film).

For me it remains a kind of idle, only occasionally-sought-after entertainment, although I continue to be impressed with how some -- with Jason Somerville the pioneer and current Twitch “chip leader” (by far) -- have found ways to make it work both for them and their viewers/followers/subscribers. And I continue to be curious about what will come of it, too.

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