Former Twitch employee explains why sub revenue split won’t change

twitch revenue split wont change

Twitch streamers are demanding a higher revenue split from channel subscriptions, but a former Twitch/Amazon employee has explained why this split would only hurt the platform.

Currently, Twitch offers streamers a 50/50 split in revenue when it comes to channel subscriptions. When viewers pay $5 to subscribe to their favorite streamer, roughly $2.50 goes into the streamer’s pocket.

In November 2021, streamer Dezirablegamer took to Twitter to demand a higher revenue split, calling the current 50% model”crazy”. Shortly after, the poll to “Change revenue split between streamers and lower payout minimums” became the most supported idea on UserVoice.

While it sounds easy for the Amazon-owned company to pay streamers more, a former Twitch employee has provided a look at the economics that stop this from happening.

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Why Twitch can’t pay streamers more

Sam Chen, a former employee for Twitch/Amazon, has stepped up to the plate to discuss the “real economics no one wants to talk about.” In an attempt to clarify Twitch’s sub split, Chen explained why the platform can’t pay streamers more per sub.

Chen made his case in three points capped off with a short FAQ. His first point is that big streamers (xQc, Shroud, Nickmercs) are a “loss leader” for the platform. Anyone who averages roughly 5k viewers or more will cause Twitch to lose money anytime they go live.

That’s because it costs Twitch money to host streamers and provide a platform that supports 1080p broadcasts. The number of people watching large creators costs Twitch more than it can earn from that streamer’s subs. The ad revenue also does not cover the cost of that streamer.

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Chen’s second point is that mid-tier streamers (100-500 avg. concurrent viewers) make up for that loss. He stated that these streamers’ sub counts likely outnumber their viewers by a large margin.

“Twitch cannot be profitable without maximizing revenue from this group” – Sam Chen

Lastly, Sam Chen claimed that smaller streamers might make back what they cost Twitch to host. Ad revenue also helps Twitch make up what they spend to host smaller streamers.

Chen also stated that Twitch wants larger streamers to run more ads so the platform can afford to pay sub revenue.

Why do streamers cost Twitch money?

kid watching fortnite on twitch

Chen further noted why streamers cost Twitch money to host. Prime subs aren’t free. When a viewer uses a Prime Sub, they are making Twitch give streamers money from their own pocket.

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As well, it costs the platform money to provide its viewers with video. It also costs more when a streamer can output better quality video. Chen states that Twitch doesn’t offer 4k not because it isn’t capable, but because it would cost much more to provide that service.

How can Twitch pay streamers more?

Twitch revenue split

In order for Twitch to pay streamers more and still be profitable, Chen suggested they adopt progressive taxation of larger streamers. Mid-sized streamers may be able to reap the benefits, but larger streamers would earn less revenue per sub.

However, there is a way to better support streamers on the viewer’s end. Bits are a much more efficient way of donating to a streamer. Instead of a 50% cut, Twitch takes less than 30% of the money viewers spend on bits.

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For instance, if you buy 100 bits, you pay $1.40. Twitch only takes $0.40 of that transaction. And as the number of bits a viewer purchases increases, the lower percentage Twitch takes from that transaction.

If you purchase 10,000 bits for $126, Twitch only takes $26 or roughly 20% of the revenue.

Why can’t Twitch replicate other platforms’ payouts?

The #SubSplit discussion has heated up recently because of YouTube and Facebook’s increase in revenue split (70/30). However, Chen also explained why Twitch can’t replicate these splits.

Facebook and YouTube’s streaming categories aren’t comparable to something like Twitch. There are a lot more people streaming on Twitch at any given time than any other platform.

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YouTube also has a larger number of revenue sources, whereas Twitch is dependent on ad revenue and subs. So, while it sounds like Twitch is a greedy unfair company, they may not actually be able to afford a larger sub revenue split.