Twitch sub only streams are a positive for streamers and esports
Despite the outcry of some fans, Twitch made a good decision to enable sub only streams as an option
Last week Twitch announced a new feature for Twitch Affiliates and Partners that allows for broadcasters to create streams for subscribers only. Despite the feature being in beta, users were quick to bring out the pitchforks and demonize the feature as another sign of Twitch being greedy. Despite the criticism, Twitch made the right choice, but needs to sell the feature properly in order for broadcasters to take full advantage of it.
Esports Tournament organizers
Whether it is Riot Games, ESL_CSGO, or Rocket League, official tournament organizer streams will normally have a sub button where the only benefits are some Twitch emotes. While the Rocket League channel has a linked Discord that gives subscribers perks, you are paying $5 a month for no upgrade in viewing experiences.
Twitch has an unique opportunity to give organizers an integrated method of offering premium content that would encourage viewers of the LCS or RLCS to spend $5 or more. Since this is framed in the perspective of sub only streams I will refrain from talking about Overwatch league or LCS/LEC Pro View style content only because that is not what this is referring to. The professional leagues such as RLCS, LCS, LEC, NPL, and PEL all have a form of pre/post game show such as Watchpoint for the OWL. Why not offer the show as a subscriber only benefit?
From screenshots we see that viewers would get around five minutes of a preview which would be useful to entice viewers to subscribe either with a spare Twitch prime sub or a brand new one to hear exclusive interviews with pros, expert analysis, and previews of the next week of fixtures. One of the criticisms of subscriber only streams is that they would have much lower view counts because a big streamer such as Ninja or summit1g might have 20,000 + subs but those will more than likely not all be watching at once so a 20,000 viewer stream would go down to 500 which would hurt the streamer’s overall averages.
This argument is mostly mitigated for after league content such as a show like Watchpoint because only the hardcore fans will usually stick around for after shows, and fans with a monetary attachment might be more inclined to care about the contents of the show than if it were offered simply for free.
The bigger potential money maker for tournament organizers or personalities such as Keemstar would be pay per view style tournaments. Instead of paying $50 for a stream like you would for an UFC fight, the tournament or stream in question would be available to subscribers only. Tournament organizers operate on thin margins and PPV streams would be an incredible new revenue stream with a lot of potential.
One of the big potential winners from this would the BLAST Pro Series. While the RFRSH owned tournament organizer has faced flack recently for some very questionable business decisions and tournament structures, BLAST’s bread and butter are two day bite sized events that feel more akin to UFC than ESL. BLAST tournaments tend to be more lighthearted and content heavy which would go well to giving fans tons of value for a mere $5 buy in.
Esports are a big part of Twitch, but streamers are the lifeblood of the platform. Twitch streamers have unique relationships with their communities, but compared to a corporation like ESL, your average Twitch partner has a much more family like feel to their stream. Unlike a tournament organizer, fans have more reasons to give $5, $10, or more per month to someone that might have impacted their life or they really love their content.
Twitch subs will often go years to stay subscribed to their favorite streamer even if they stop creating content for several months. Sub only streams are a great way for streamers to reward that longtime loyalty in the form of exclusive content that would cultivate a more intimate experience. Imagine Ninja having a sub only stream where he opens the lobby to subs to play Fortnite with him for an hour so?
This used to be a much more common experience, but as streamers grew it became much harder to keep track of their fast growing fanbases. The sub only stream would limit the size (hopefully) in order to provide a much more intimate and exciting atmosphere for subscribers that would feel like a throwback for both streamer and viewer alike.
Twitch subscriber only streams are not perfect solutions to present problems (streamer burnout, need for better revenue models in tournaments, and community engagement), but they are a good start for Twitch to expand in the future.