Twitch opens up its money-making tools to tens of thousands of non-Partnered channels

On the heels of yesterday’s news about expanded subscription options for partners, video streaming site Twitch today announced another way for its creator community to generate revenue, with the launch of an Affiliate program. Explains the company, the new program will allow non-partnered video creators to gain access to a variety of tools that will allow them to make money from their channels, even if they’re not large enough to gain “Partner” status.

The first of these tools is Cheering with Bits.

Cheering was introduced last year as a form of virtual tipping which involves purchasing “Bits” – animated emoji – using real-world money. You can then use Bits in chat messages as a way to support your favorite streamer. As you cheer, you’ll also earn Chat Badges for the channel to have that support recognized more broadly.

Bits are equal to one cent and both Partners and Affiliates each earn the same when those Bits are used in chat.

Cheering was initially only available to select Twitch partners at launch, with plans to expand to a wider group over time. Since its debut, users have posted over a billion Bits to be used in their Cheers, says Twitch, dubbing the program a “success.”

With this forthcoming Affiliate program, Twitch is essentially setting up a second tier of creators who will also gain access to this tool, and soon others. This perhaps blurs the line a bit between the larger and smaller communities on Twitch’s service, but it also gives more creators the ability to grow their channels.

Partners, meanwhile, will have specific tools for managing their larger communities that won’t be available to Affiliates. In addition, when the Affiliate program launches, Partners will also receive a new Verified Chat Badge that will further designate their Partner status on the platform.

According to Twitch, creators will be invited to the Affiliate program based on a number of criteria, including time spent streaming, viewership numbers, and follower count. In other words, it’s not open to just anyone streaming on Twitch – you have to be invited.

The company isn’t detailing the specifics of those requirements, but when pressed for details, a Twitch rep put it like this: “the bar is very low and essentially requires just streaming on a regular basis and a very small number of viewers.”

Cheering will be the first of several monetization tools made available to Affiliates in the months ahead. The company will also eventually roll out access to other features, like Subscriptions, Game Commerce, and Advertising to these creators, it says. Twitch did not offer a time frame for these other features becoming available.

While Twitch didn’t specifically say exactly how many Affiliates will be gaining access to these tools, it did note that today there are 17,000 Partners out of a total of 2.2 million unique streamers per month. Affiliates will be a slice of that larger audience – Twitch says that “tens of thousands” of non-Partnered channels will be invited to participate.

This is a significant move for Twitch in terms of growing its creator community, and therefore its wider user base. As with YouTube before it, when you provide ways for people to make money from their videos, they’re likely to produce more content, which in turn increases the overall community’s engagement. And Twitch, of course, is also filling its own coffers as it rolls out these tools more broadly, given that it takes a cut of things like these Cheering Bits and Subscriptions.

Last year, when Twitch had around two million active streamers and 100 million unique monthly users, Piper Jaffrey’s Gene Munster predicted Twitch could be worth $20 billion, generating $1 billion in revenue, by the year 2020. Those figures may need to be adjusted now that Twitch’s money-making tools are opening up to more creators.

Twitch hasn’t yet announced a firm launch date for its Affiliate Program, only telling us that it would launch “very, very soon” worldwide.

Update: The program launched late in the day on April 24, 2017.