The Amazon-owned streaming platform, Twitch, reversed new Branded Content Guidelines following negative backlash from users. The updated rules included a complete ban on “burned-in” video, display and audio ads as well as a limit on “on-stream logos” to 3% of the screen size. Causing an outcry among streamers, some of which threatened to leave the platform, Twitch has now apologised and issued a U-turn.
The new policies, which would have greatly decreased revenue from brand sponsorships for streamers, caused major controversy. Regardless of how many followers a creator has, sponsored streams are a crucial source of income on Twitch. It came as a shock to many given the contentious 50/50 split between partnered streamers and the platform that began in June 2023. With streamers forced into handing over half their income after the first $100,000 is made (there is still a 70/30 split before that threshold), outrage ensued further with these new policies.
Restricting creators in unprecedented ways, several large creators from the community like Asmongold and OTK publicly threatened to leave the platform. They tweeted: “This is a direct attack on our business, staff, and all of the hard work we have put into our organization.” Concerns also emerged over the effect on charity streaming, in which creators use “on screen banners” and “overlay tools” to promote charitable donations. These charity partnerships are considered Branded Content due to incentives and therefore would have been completely restricted under the new rules.
Co-founder of the Gaming Community Expo, Ben Bowman, described how they “run heartfelt ads we get from St. Jude about their mission, history and goals” while directing charity streams for the children’s charity. He claims that the Guidelines could “interfere with the ability to display information-dense concepts (top 10 or 50 donors to a cause via a branded overlay, for example) that often drive donations”. Under these new rules, charitable donations would be greatly affected financially.
There also would have been major implications for esports broadcasts which totally rely on sponsor revenue to take place as they are typically free to watch. Year-round tournaments of various games attract a massive audience on Twitch, but cannot function without funding. American streamer Jericho tweeted: “putting aside the fact that almost every sponsor I’ve ever done has necessitated these things, how the fuck does ESL or any grass roots organization ever run a profitable tournament ever again?”
The most liked response was to move to “YouTube, Kick or Rumble”, which appears to be the most widely accepted solution. Without the ability to promote a sponsor effectively to the audience, it is expected that sponsors may reconsider investing their money into Twitch streamers.
If Twitch was willing to put out such drastic changes without a single warning, there is no telling what the future has in store
Twitch swiftly issued an apology over Twitter stating: “Today’s branded content policy update was overly broad. This created confusion and frustration, and we apologize for that.” They added, “We do not intend to limit streamers’ ability to enter into direct relationships with sponsors, and we understand that this is an important part of how streamers earn revenue.”
Promising to “rewrite the guidelines to be clearer”, Twitch then called a meeting with ambassadors, staff and executives to discuss the rules. This provided some clarification on Twitch’s thought process behind the changes. Streamer StudyTime, after attending, reported that their goal is “to prevent third-party providers from showing random ads” and that Twitch is willing “to consider” increasing the “3% allocation for logos”.
StudyTime also stated that “every ambassador present expressed concerns about how the topic had never been raised with them before” but reflected on it as a ‘time will tell’ situation rather than a call to action. Despite the apology, anger is clear within the community with many still urging streamers to “stop doing subathons”, “stop doing streamathons” and “emphasize tipping and supporting through third party sites with better cuts” which would directly impact Twitch profits.
BBC News reported on UK Streamer Marco, who confirmed that he would still be parting ways with Twitch: “This is the push that I needed to get me off this platform.” He mentioned problems extend beyond the new guidelines, stating that the service “has next to no discoverability – it’s one of those platforms where if you’re not already at the top, you’re not going to be”.
Regardless of Twitch’s change of heart, the entire streaming community remains resentful of the platform which only appears to be out for itself. Should increasing profits come at the cost of limiting their creators’ revenue streams? If Twitch was willing to put out such drastic changes without a single warning, there is no telling what the future has in store. In any case, it appears that there will be a conscious shift towards more streamer-friendly services.