To date, only the roughly 17,000 Twitch Partners — the most popular video-game broadcasters on the site — have been able to monetize their channels.
Now the Amazon-owned video service is launching a new revenue-sharing program open to all of Twitch’s 2.2 million total unique monthly broadcasters, as long as they have even a very tiny audience.
The move comes after Twitch’s “Cheering” feature — which lets users buy emoji to give live shout-outs to their favorite video-game stars during live broadcasts — has raked in more than $12 million in less than 10 months.
Twitch’s new Affiliate Program, launching later this month, will be open to creators who fit a very low threshold of key metrics like followers and time spent streaming. Initially, those affiliates will have access to Cheering, and eventually Twitch will give them other revenue-generating tools like subscriptions, game e-commerce, and advertising.
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The goal: to provide a path for Twitch gamers to be able to turn a hobby into potentially a full-time gig.
“In listening to our creators, what we’ve learned is they really need a bridge from when they begin to when they get added to the Twitch Partner program,” said Ethan Evans, Twitch’s senior VP of commerce and developer success.
Twitch’s Partner Program guidelines specify that they should regularly have at least 500 concurrent viewers for their streams and broadcast at least three times per week. There’s no firm minimum requirement for Twitch Affiliates, but Evans says even creators with “fives of followers” will be eligible to participate.
“They have to be doing more than just kicking the tires,” said Evans.
The first tool available to Twitch Affiliates will be Cheering, which has proven very popular on the service. Since launching in late June 2016, users have sent more than 1 billion “Bits,” animated emotes in live chats on Twitch channels. That means Twitch users have already spent between $12.3 million and $14 million on Cheering (pricing for Bits ranges from $1.40 for 100 to $308 for 25,000). Twitch pays $1 to Twitch Partner for every 100 Bits used, so $10 million of that revenue has gone to creators.
Under Amazon’s wing, Twitch — facing growing competition from YouTube Gaming — has been steadily expanding other revenue programs for streamers. Earlier this week, Twitch announced two new “superfan” subscription tier options above the existing $4.99 monthly plan. Twitch Partners can provide exclusive additional emotes to $9.99 and $24.99 monthly subs, and those fans will be able to unlock new emotes faster ($9.99 subs are worth two subscriber counts and $24.99 subs are worth six subscriber counts).
The Twitch Partners program will remain “hand-managed,” according to Evans, with staff support and features designed for serving larger communities. By contrast, the Affiliates program will be largely a self-service program. Twitch Partners will also get a new “verified chat badge” when the Affiliate Program launches.