Twitch made a major announcement today, revealing that the rumored subscriber-only stream function that was leaked a month ago is real and called Subscriber Streams - and the beta for that program begins today for Twitch Affiliates and Partners. Twitch is one of the largest broadcast platforms on the internet, and although it still maintains a slant towards video games as its primary content, the platform has also branched into other categories like the popular "Just Chatting" or "IRL" options that have transformed some streamers into celebrities.
Twitch has been rolling out several updates to help support streamers on the platform, including VIP badges and custom Subscriber emotes, to help incentivize viewers to spend a little money on their favorite creators. One of the biggest partnerships in the history of content creation was made when Amazon and Twitch combined to form Twitch Prime, a service that is free to Amazon Prime subscribers and offers a number of benefits to users, including one free subscription a month to use on their favorite entertainer. With other platforms like YouTube floundering under confusing ad revenue policies and a monetization system that has left even veterans of the platform bewildered, Twitch quickly established itself as a viable alternative and continues to grow.
That growth will continue with Subscriber Streams, even if they sound like they're going to be a divisive topic among the Twitch community. According to Twitch, Subscriber Streams will enable streamers to benefit some of their biggest supporters in subscribers, VIPs, and mods by hosting exclusive streams. The option will only be available to "trusted" Partners and Affiliates, which means content creators who have had either of those statuses for over 90 days without a strike against them. Here's how Twitch describes the Subscriber Stream function, which is now in beta:
"If a viewer subscribes to a channel at any tier, including a Twitch Prime subscription, they'll have access to that creator's Subscriber Streams. If they're not a subscriber and they arrive on a channel that's running a Subscriber Stream, they'll see a preview of what's going on and, if they'd like, they'll be able to join the party immediately by subscribing."
Twitch also committed to making Subscriber Streams a safe place by assuring users they won't be private streams, so they'll still be subject to Twitch ToS. Subscriber Streams will also be tagged as such, with the tag superseding any other tag used to make discoverability and clarity easier. Users will be able to preview content that's happening on a Subscriber Stream and will have the option to subscribe and join the stream immediately if they like what they see, meaning the function will be a smooth process for content creators.
The issue, of course, is in how this will inevitably divide the Twitch community. It puts content creators in the unenviable position of choosing whether to host subscriber-only streams, which could ostracize and ultimately splinter their communities. The function is likely a huge win for bigger streamers, but they're also the ones who least need the revenue. For mid-tier streamers, the option to heavily incentivize subs - which could be the difference between going full-time as a content creator - will now come with a huge risk, as hosting Subscriber Streams could cause some people to label them as greedy and turn away. That label would, of course, be unfair - the system is in place now, and a savvy business operator knows not to turn down chances at profit - but it feels like it will happen all the same. Hopefully Twitch knows what it's doing, because Subscriber Streams are a step toward a more traditional broadcasting model and a step away from what Twitch has previously stood for.