In the past couple months, Twitch has gotten into the habit of running ads for big streamers’ events on other streamers’ broadcasts—first with the Tyler “Ninja” Blevins New Years Eve extravaganza last month, and, more recently, ahead of a Pro Bowl event hosted over the weekend by Imane “Pokimane” Anys. Streamers don’t love it, and now Twitch says it’s putting that practice to bed.
The company responded to blowback in a statement to streamers that it posted to Twitter today, acknowledging that these ads “caused concern across our broader Twitch creators that these advertisements may drive their audiences elsewhere” and saying it “will avoid running advertisements in the future for on-site events and/or creators that potentially drive your viewers to other Twitch channels.”
In both Ninja’s and Pokimane’s cases, streamers didn’t like the idea of being forced to advertise for other, already successful streamers who might gobble up their audiences. Viewers and streamers were especially surprised to see Twitch reprise this widely maligned song and dance just a month after Ninja’s NYE event took so much flak for it.
“I thought people were pretty vocal recently about their displeasure of other broadcasters being advertised on their channels, so why the fuck are my viewers seeing Pokimane ads?” longtime streamer Sam “Strippin” Thorne said on Twitter last week, echoing a sentiment shared by many other streamers.
In response to the furor, Pokimane, like Ninja before her, argued that pushes from big companies like Twitch, the NFL, and (in Ninja’s case) Red Bull benefit all streamers—not just the ones scoring the big deals. “I love to see streamers be a part of big company campaigns like this,” she said during a stream from the Pro Bowl. “It means that the whole industry for streamers is doing well.”
In today’s statement, Twitch said it thought the ads helped “spotlight exciting events taking place on-site with some of our creators” and were ultimately the product of “good intentions.” However, the ensuing reaction is a product of the environment the company has created by fostering breakneck competition that largely benefits Twitch, rather than its army of contractors.
Not only is Twitch rife with differences between streamers of different popularity levels, the company has gamified the ensuing competition with tiers that encourage smaller streamers to work until their bones ache and their eyelids are heavy for an opportunity to be on a similar playing field to the big boys and girls—and implicitly encourage streamers to be wary of each other. To Twitch’s credit, it’s taken steps in recent times to lessen the burden on smaller, non-partnered streamers somewhat by giving them more options and features, but it’s still hard to envision a situation in which the trickle-down model championed by Twitch, Ninja, and Pokimane authentically benefits everyone, rather than mostly just those at the top.
“We always want you to hold us accountable, and we’re glad you are here,” Twitch said in its statement. “We’ll continue to invest in finding ways to support all creators on Twitch and look forward to you helping us do that.” Here’s hoping that actually means all, and not just some of all.