Twitch introduces subscriber-only streams amidst controversy

Jagoda G. June 29, 2019

Twitch’s newest update now allows content creators to restrict their stream viewership to only those who spend $4.99 on a channel subscription.

The news has sparked a lot of debate online and calls into question the balance of Twitch as a community-driven platform versus a platform driven by the need for new revenue sources.

The website is home to a lot of people who rely on streaming as their full-time job, and even more of those who still struggle to establish regular viewership and communities. This makes the discussion surrounding paid features and exclusive content a complicated one.

Up until now, subscriber privileges could include sub badges next to one’s name, exclusive emotes, and a subscriber-only chat option. Broadcasts were always open to the website’s full audience. Now, affiliate and partnered streamers who haven’t had a community guidelines strike within the last 90 days can select an option on their dashboard which changes their stream audience from “anyone” to “subscribers only.”

This is clearly intended as another potential boost to the platform’s revenue and to help incentivise viewers to subscribe to the channels they enjoy the most. 

Twitch isn’t just a platform for community interaction. It is home to all of the world’s biggest esports broadcasts, as well as pro player streams, entertainers and artists, and thousands of smaller projects. Launched in 2011 as an offspring of preceding platform Justin.tv, Twitch was purchased by Amazon in 2014. It is the biggest gaming broadcast site on the internet, with 15 million daily users as of May 2018.

Many people across social media have expressed concern since the news came out. The direction that Twitch may be headed in with this strategy could prove detrimental to the community-oriented nature of the platform, with a greater emphasis on “premium” streams that require payment before viewing.

But there has also been some positive feedback regarding the update. For larger channels and more established streamers it is a way to achieve a more stable and reliable source of income, and to many the news simply means Twitch is committed to continuously revising and upgrading its website.