With 15 million daily active users consuming 71 million hours of content every day, Twitch may be the biggest social media platform you’ve never heard of.
Millions of streamers have taken to the platform since it was created in 2011 to broadcast their lives – in real time.
Streamers participate in a range of activities, varying from ‘just chatting’ with the audience, holding TV show or movie ‘watching parties’, or playing video games.
It might seem like an easy day at work, but some streamers amass mammoth audiences and, in some cases, collect unbelievable pay cheques.
Until recently, each streamer’s earnings were a tightly held secret as Twitter prohibits streamers from disclosing how much they earn.
But earlier this month, confidential information about the earnings of Twitch’s biggest stars was leaked online, exposing the amount that more than 10,000 streamers had been paid by Twitch from August 2019 to October 2021.
The leaked payouts comprise money made by streamers through subscriptions, bit donations (virtual ‘tips’ made by viewers), and advertisement revenue.
What is Twitch?
Similar to YouTube, Twitch allows viewers to follow their favourite internet personalities, following in the footsteps of pioneering online personalities such as lifestyle and fashion blogger Zoe Sugg (better known by her mononym Zoella) and gaming giant PewDiePie.
Twitch, which was bought by Amazon in 2014, brings fans closer to more than eight million active creators by allowing them to watch them and interact with them in real time.
How do Twitch streamers make money?
Twitch streamers can make their money through multiple avenues, both through the platform and externally.
In order to make money from subscriptions, streamers need to apply to be part of the Twitch Partner Program.
Twitch selects those who get to participate based on the streamer’s content, viewership and stream frequency.
Viewers then have the option to subscribe to these streamers’ channels, for $US5 ($8).
Although Twitch takes a 50 per cent cut of each subscription fee, this is another way for streamers to make serious cash.
Viewers can also send ‘bit emotes’ (pictured below) to their streamers – for a price.
They can pay to send them in the live chat room, in a bid to get the streamer’s attention and join the conversation with other viewers.
The bit emotes can currently be purchased via Amazon and PayPal payments, with each bit’s value given directly to the streamer.
The higher the level of ‘bit’, the more likely a viewer is to be recognised by a streamer.
Similar to YouTube, Twitch streamers in the Partner Program can also earn profits through advertising revenue, with ads running before and during streams.
Plus, if streamers need to take a toilet break, they also have the option to run ads while their viewers are waiting for them to return.
It doesn’t end there
This might already sound like a gold mine of earnings, but the leaked amount earned by top Twitch streamers doesn’t include lucrative brand deals, direct donations or merchandise.
To bypass Twitch taking a cut from donations, it has become more commonplace for viewers to donate directly to streamers via platforms such as PayPal.
Brands such as energy drink GFUEL and metal poster company Displate are well known for supporting creators who, in turn, display their products in the background of their stream or promote their products at intervals in each stream.
Fans can also support streamers by purchasing their merchandise.
Streamer Summit1g (real name Jaryd Russell Lazar) ranked third in the list of top earners, raking in $US5.8 million ($7.8 million) during that period. Not only is he one of the biggest streamers on the platform, but he also has a successful line of merchandise.
His T-shirts, hats and hoodies range from $15 to $65.
Not just gamers
Other than online gamers, conventional ‘old-school’ gamers are also gaining traction on the platform.
In fact, the highest-earning Twitch creator was found to be Dungeons & Dragons channel CriticalRole.
The leak revealed the CriticalRole channel earned $US9.6 million ($13 million) on Twitch from August 2019 to October 2021.
The channel features nine voice actors who play the game and narrate their experiences for hundreds of thousands of viewers per stream.
CriticalRole merchandise is also available online, from pyjamas to medieval tankards.
The channel has humble origins, with the nine voice actors beginning their journey in 2015 broadcasting from each others’ living rooms.
Now, their channel is a multimillion-dollar production, owned by the cast’s own company, Critical Role Productions.
Streaming may be a surprisingly lucrative industry. However, it’s no easy feat to get to the top of this list – or to become approved as a Twitch Partner, which is necessary to unlock many of the revenue streams.
Twitch recommends streamers ‘go live’ at least three times a week to be considered for the Partner Program.
CriticalRole’s streams are known to go for up to six hours every Thursday, with additional coverage running through its YouTube channel and on social media throughout the remainder of the week.
Another top-performing streamer, MoistCr1TiKal, streams daily, anywhere from three to 10 hours at a time.
All patched up
Following the leak, Twitch has reassured users that security had been bolstered across the platform in its latest updates.
Twitch confirmed in a statement there was an investigation ongoing into the breach made by a “malicious third party”.