Compared to other online ads, Twitch ads are relatively unobtrusive. But they’re still obnoxious as hell. You tune in to watch your favourite streamer, and then the same 10-second ad plays three times in a row. Unfortunately, Twitch announced yesterday that Twitch Prime will no longer offer an ad-free viewing experience.
Twitch Prime, which is a $US12.99 ($18) per month subscription plan that dovetails with Amazon Prime, used to take all Twitch ads out of the picture. As of September 14, however, that perk won’t be part of the package any more (although there are still other benefits, such as free games and in-game loot).
Twitch justified the decision by saying that this will “strengthen and expand that advertising opportunity for creators so they can get more support from their viewers for doing what they love”. So basically, more money for streamers.
Many streamers take issue with that stance, though, given that they were previously told that they’d still earn money from Prime viewers as though those viewers had watched ads — even when they hadn’t.
“Partners don’t see any direct benefit from the Twitch Prime ad-free removal,” Justin Wong, formerly a Twitch VP of six years, said on Twitter. “There are possibly indirect benefits depending on whether viewers will subscribe to avoid ads. In other words, the ‘benefiting creators’ shtick is BS.”
Twitch has not replied to multiple queries from Kotaku about how this change tangibly benefits streamers, but others have observed that even if it does, only partners — Twitch’s top streaming tier — make money from ads right now. That leaves the lion’s share of streamers out in the cold.
“Keep in mind that currently, only Partners get ad revenue,” wrote a streamer named QuirkyGeek17. “Ads everywhere else earn money for Twitch. ‘More money for content creators!’ Not really.”
Some streamers believe that having a substantial portion of the viewer base opt out of seeing ads by default could have been hurting Twitch’s ability to make deals. On top of that, many viewers use ad blockers. So perhaps, in a roundabout way, streamers will directly benefit.
“This helps Twitch sell more ads, resulting in better rev for us,” said a partner who goes by the handle Gothalion.
“The new Twitch Prime update removed one of the biggest perks of using the service, which was removing ads,” said esports host and Twitch streamer Goldenboy. “I can imagine that had a big impact on their ad buys and bottom line. I get it, but I don’t.”
Also, Twitch recently set a new ad sales target of $US1 billion ($1.4 billion), according to Bloomberg. That’s more than double its current sales. Twitch sees gold in them there hills, and it now hopes to mine it.
Still, many streamers feel as though they’re being fleeced, and that their viewers will now have to deal with buzzing swarms of ad-based irritation. In lieu of putting up with that, some streamers have opted for the nuclear option: Disabling ads entirely for subscribers.
“Due to the changes in Twitch Prime, I’ll be removing timed ads from all future streams,” said Twitch partner ShadyPenguinn. “So dumb move, Prime.”
“With all the fuss about Twitch forcing ads in everyone’s streams, I’ve got some good news: I have ad free watching for subs,” said another partner, Sketch.
Streamer Renée Reynosa, who left Twitch in favour of Mixer two months ago, sees the beginnings of a trend.
“IMO, removing ad-free viewing is just going to encourage streamers to not run ads,” she said, adding that prior to leaving Twitch, she hadn’t run ads on her channel in years, instead encouraging viewers to support her by subscribing.
“I feel like ads only benefit larger streamers in the 1000+ viewer range who are likely not going to miss the handful of viewers who leave when they see an ad.”
Even then, though, the ad-free viewing option is only available to partners, revealing yet another way that Twitch’s arbitrary stratification benefits a select handful of streamers more than others — and, of course, it benefits Twitch most of all.
“It would be great if Twitch would give the option to affiliates to disable ads for subs as well,” said Twitch affiliate LintyJuggler90. “100% disabling ads for subs day one if it becomes available.”
In the meantime, other streamers have been encouraging viewers to block the ads, which seems like the opposite of the outcome Twitch is hoping for here.
“Please install an ad blocker if you watch my content on Twitch/YouTube,” said tabletop video-maker and streamer Robert Moran, “because ads are a waste of your time, and I have no interest building a business off ad dollars.”
He went on to say that ad companies “do not care” about the particularities of what people are making and that he’s had previous shows die because of “squeamish investors who don’t really care or even know what they are advertising on sometimes”.
Other streamers are just hoping this announcement doesn’t hurt them too badly in the grand scheme of things. But they’re not optimistic. With many fans posting on social media to say that the main reason they subscribed to Twitch Prime at all was to avoid ads, streamers are crossing their fingers that fans won’t start dropping Twitch Prime and unsubscribing from their channels in droves.
“This announcement is such a loss for ALL streamers,” said streamer Iateyourpie. “It’s not even about the ad revenue, more people are going to drop Prime, meaning less Prime [subscriptions]. Twitch trying to spin this as a win for the streamer is laughable.”
“Yeah,” agreed speedrunner Grandpoobear. “First time in a long time where Twitch announced something, and I was like ‘oh shit, this is gonna cost me money.’”