Twitch’s new Partner Plus tier, which will grant qualifying streamers a 70/30 revenue split, has been hailed as a win for the platform’s community. But the program’s lofty requirements exclude the vast majority of Twitch Partners, and compounds the already tense relationship between Twitch and its creators.
“A lot of people are looking for reasons to be happy with Twitch after all the recent drama,” Diva, a Twitch Partner who streams under the handle Divatopia, said. “I feel like Twitch has been making not very creator-minded decisions so they are grasping at straws to do any kind of improvement to make people happy.”
The default revenue split for Twitch Partners is 50/50 — subscriptions (subs) start at $4.99 at the lowest tier, and can be raised to $9.99 or $24.99. Prime Gaming, which is included with an Amazon Prime subscription, grants one sub per month. Viewers can also gift each other with subs, which expire after a month.
Select streamers were offered a premium 70/30 split until last year, when Twitch announced plans to cut the deal in favor of the platform’s ad revenue program. Partners grandfathered into the deal would still get a 70% cut of the first $100,000 they earned, and 50% of any revenue after that. Streamers widely protested the changes, which were set to go into effect this month.
The new Partner Plus program, which Twitch announced on Thursday, will grant qualifying streamers 70% of the first $100,000 they make annually from monthly and gift subs. To qualify, Partners must maintain at last 350 monthly subs for at least three consecutive months. Gift subs and Prime subs don’t count toward the subscription minimum, but do count toward the $100,000 annual cap — another point of contention among streamers.
Oli, a Minecraft streamer known as highkeyhateme, has more than 176,000 followers on Twitch but is “nowhere near” the 350-sub minimum to qualify for the Partner Plus program. Many streamers with over 1,000 consistent viewers per stream still won’t have 350 monthly subs, Oli told TechCrunch in a Twitter DM. He described the Partner Plus program as a “low blow” to streamers who already hustled to qualify as a Partner.
“Getting on Partner on Twitch (especially for creators after Covid) has always been a super long and hard process and feels great to finally get to that level,” Oli said. “For them to add a new ‘Partner Plus’ that adds higher requirements feels kinda diminishing.”
Twitch Affiliates can monetize their channels through paid subscriptions, bits (the platform’s virtual currency) and ad revenue. To join the lower-tier Affiliate program, streamers must reach 50 followers, stream for eight total hours on seven different days, and have an average of three viewers within a 30-day period. To qualify as a Partner, which unlocks custom channel emotes and other support features, creators have to stream for 25 hours on 12 different days and average 75 viewers over a 30-day period. Once they meet those requirements, streamers are invited to apply to the Partner program, and have to be manually approved by Twitch’s Partnership team. The company looks for creators who “can act as role models to the community,” in addition to meeting the criteria.
Of the 42,366 active Partners, only about 1,000 had 350 or more monthly subs in the last three months, according to the analytics site Stream Charts. Just 2.5% of Partners qualify for the Partner Plus program. The fact that gift subs and Prime subs aren’t counted toward the subscription minimum excludes huge swaths of creators who would otherwise qualify for the program.
Jambo, a Twitch Ambassador who has been advocating for a 70/30 revenue split for all creators, said Ambassadors were included in the discussions leading up to the Partner Plus announcement. She declined to comment on her involvement in the program, but criticized the platform for disincentivizing gift subs in a series of tweets. She has hit 10,000 subs, she said, but the majority were gifted and she still hasn’t consistently held 350 monthly subs.
“Twitch gets the same cut of those and it’s lost on me why they’re treated as less significant when it’s a PRIMARY SOURCE of support for creators,” Jambo tweeted on Friday morning. “While also being one of the most profitable Twitch features ever implemented.”
Streaming uniquely allows creators to directly interact with their audience in real time, and foster a community that other forms of content creation can’t always facilitate. Gifting subs is encouraged, and builds a dedicated audience that will not only bring in consistent views, but also draw in new viewers. Discouraging gifted subs is counterintuitive for generating revenue and community building. Aura, an artist and Twitch affiliate who streams as Aurahack, said the Partner Plus program gamifies viewership “in a way that just sucks.”
“It seems like such a miserable way of viewing the people who support you as just a number that should go up,” she said in a phone call with TechCrunch. “I hate to think of the idea of seeing a gifted sub in your channel and being like, no, that’s the wrong kind of sub. It is an act of generosity that is being done toward the streamer. It’s a show of appreciation regardless of what form it takes.”
“It seems like such a miserable way of viewing the people who support you as just a number that should go up.”
Other streamers speculate that creators will burn themselves out by trying to chase the prized 350 monthly subs. Drunkn Buddha, a creator who makes cooking and gaming content, cautioned other creators against jeopardizing their mental health by churning out content for the sake of boosting their numbers. Lengthy streams have taken a toll on his mental health, he said in a Twitter DM, and focusing on metrics takes the joy out of streaming. Typical practices for increasing sub count, like hosting 24-hour subathons, are unlikely to help streamers reach their goals since gift subs and Prime subs don’t even count, he said.
The Partner Plus program is salt in the wound for non-gaming creators, many of whom already feel sidelined by the gaming content that dominates Twitch. For Aura, who has met the minimum requirements to qualify as a Partner but has been rejected from the program three separate times, having 350 paid monthly subscribers is unfathomable. Her art streams, where she draws borderline NSFW portraits, has a niche but dedicated viewership.
“I don’t even think it’s possible for someone in my situation. The type of viewership that comes for my art streams is so different than video game streams,” she said. “I’m drawing. I don’t have a hot new game release to stream every couple of days, or grinding rank on Apex for hours on end to provide all this content.”
Aura has 56 subscribers, but only 13 of them would count toward the Partner Plus program’s requirements. The platform’s ad revenue program, which gives Affiliates and Partners 55% of every ad they run on their channel, is a mixed bag. Aura said that when she increased her channel ads, her content was unwatchable. She gained ad revenue, but lost subscribers until she turned the ads off. Most streamers make money by landing branded deals and sponsorships, Aura pointed out.
“The 50/50 split is one of the largest splits I have seen across many companies in multiple fields that rely on their creators to make content to keep their site alive,” Lia, a YouTube Partner and Vtuber known as Church of Lia, said in a Twitter DM. “Keep in mind that Partners also had 70/30 split before but Twitch continually keeps moving the goalpost to make it harder for everyone.”
Lia started her YouTube channel in hopes of funneling viewers to her Twitch channel, since Twitch’s discoverability features are more limited. She said she gained a larger following on YouTube in less than half the time it took to build an audience on Twitch. Although she still streams on Twitch for exclusive features like channel points and game integration, she said the platform doesn’t appreciate its creators.
In wake of the Partner Plus program’s seemingly unrealistic requirements, as well as the already steep cut that Twitch takes by default, creators have floated the idea of jumping ship to other platforms.
The bulk of Aura’s income comes from her Patreon, where she has 378 subscribers paying $4-10 per month. Patreon, however, only takes a 5% cut of her monthly revenue — a fraction of Twitch’s 50/50 split. Granted, Patreon does not have any livestreaming features, so she has considered shifting her focus to Picarto, a livestreaming service specifically designed for art. The site lets creators keep 50-75% of subscription revenue, depending on their membership tier, and has features like gallery displays and integrated commissions.
YouTube has a 70/30 membership revenue split, and allows partners to gain visibility and ad revenue by promoting their content on YouTube Shorts. The company also lowered the eligibility for the YouTube Partner Program. To qualify, creators must have 500 (unpaid) subscribers, three public uploads in the last 90 days and either 3,000 watch hours in the past year or 3 million Shorts views in the last 90 days.
Kick, the livestreaming service backed by the founders of the crypto gambling site Stake, continues to lure streamers away from Twitch by offering them a staggering 95% of subscriber revenue. Twitch banned Stake, along with a slew of other online casinos, from the platform last year in the aftermath of a gambling scam debacle. While some streamers claim they’ll drop Twitch for Kick, others question Kick’s laissez faire approach to moderation and long-term stability.
“I wouldn’t see myself going to Kick, as the toxic audience it has cultivated so early and marketing itself as ‘no rules,’” Oli, the Minecraft streamer, said. “It’s almost solidified a toxic community base. Kick with their business model almost seems too good to be true … Don’t think that will be a forever thing.”
Migrating an entire following or starting from scratch and rebuilding an audience is a daunting task, though. There may be some contenders poised to rival Twitch, but Twitch remains the dominant livestreaming platform for both creators and viewers. All of the creators who commented told TechCrunch that they just want Twitch to offer Affiliates and Partners a 70/30 revenue split — a fair compromise for the labor that goes into making content.
“Personally, I don’t see myself changing platforms,” Drunkn Buddha said. “The bulk of my community is still on Twitch and I’m old, set in my ways, and don’t want to learn how to navigate and use a new platform. I don’t have to memorize a new channel link or change any of my bios.”