Twitch Experiments With Intrusive Ads That Piss Off Its Most Important Asset, Its Talent

from the twitch-ain't-tv dept

As any internet platform matures, the growth it undergoes will inevitably lead to experimenting with revenue models. For a healthy chunk of the internet, advertising plays some role in those experiments. And, like anything else, there are good experiments and bad experiments.

But I am very much struggling to understand who in the hell at Twitch thought that breaking away from live streams to force viewers to watch commercials, all without the control or input of Twitch streamers, could possibly be a good idea.

“Beginning in September, as part of an ad experiment, some viewers may begin to notice that they are receiving ads during streams that others in a channel aren’t receiving,” the company wrote on its website. “Like pre-rolls, these are ads triggered by Twitch, not by the creator.”

Crucially, these ads utilize Twitch’s “picture-by-picture” functionality, which basically means that the stream you’re watching pops out into a smaller window while the ad rolls in the main window. However, ads will still steal the show from some viewers, with streamers none the wiser as to who can hear what they’re saying (picture-by-picture mutes streams) and, therefore, understand what’s happening on stream while ads are playing.

If this reads as though Twitch were trying to turn its platform into some flavor of broadcast television, where the content is broken away from in the service of displaying advertising, that’s because that’s exactly what this is. Which doesn’t make any sense. Twitch is not television. Sure, some streamers choose to break away from their own content for advertising. In fact, doing so staves off this new process of forced breakaways. But many streamers don’t do that. For a viewer to be torn away from the content that continues on, muted, all while they’re forced to view ads, would be stupid on its own. To give streamers not only almost zero control over whether this happens, but also zero visibility into when and to whom it’s happening, can only serve to piss everyone off.

Which is exactly what it did.

“You’re not YouTube,” said Twitch partner ThatBronzeGirl on Twitter in response to Twitch’s announcement. “When ads play in the middle of the stream, viewers actively miss out on content (muted or not). Add this to the fact that viewers are hit with an ad as soon as they enter a stream, so channel surfing is cumbersome. Idk why y’all hate viewer retention.”

“This means either one of two things happens: 1) I schedule a break in the stream to have control over ads running that are proven to drive viewers away. 2) Viewers get an ad randomly that is all but guaranteed to drive them away. Which of those is for us though?” said variety streamer Deejay Knight.

“If I don’t play enough ads, Jeff Bezos literally comes to my stream and pushes the ad button, what do I do,” said former Overwatch pro Seagull.

Let’s be clear, Twitch is a thing because of the talent that chooses to use it. It’s bad enough to put a new advertising model in place that pisses off viewers. But piss the talent off and they’ll simply go somewhere else, particularly when the viewers voice their frustration by removing their eyeballs. Some of this seems to also be Twitch not understanding that the platform is no longer video game let’s-plays. The content is wide and varied and much of it cannot function with this sort of intrusive advertising.

“A streamer could be talking about suicide prevention, and up pops an ad,” said Scottish Twitch partner Limmy. “Depending on the implementation, the streamer would either be unaware, which is bad, or the streamer has to announce a forced ad break at an inappropriate time.”

“We’re not all Overwatch and Fortnite,” said dungeon master MontyGlu. “In narrative streams such as DnD live shows and RPG game streams, 10-30 seconds removed could completely deprive people of story, context and investment.”

As the Kotaku post notes, part of the problem here is that all the monetary incentives for streamers compared with the platform are horribly misaligned. Many streamers make most of their money through subscriptions and brand partnerships. The money they get from Twitch is mostly an afterthought. Twitch, on the other hand, makes gobs of money from advertisements. It’s a scenario in which the platform is incentivized by advertising while the talent is very specifically incentivized by a lack of advertising. More ads drive eyeballs away, which means less lucrative partnerships and subscriptions.

If Twitch wants to push more ads, it desperately needs to get the streamers on board.

“While I’m not allowed to say specifics, Twitch has the worst CPM ad-revenue share to creators with their standard contracts (read: not the big shots with custom negotiated rates),” said Minecraft YouTuber and Twitch streamer KurtJMac. “They want ads to run because they make bank. Pay a fair rate to creators and we’d be glad to run ads!”

Somewhat amazingly, Twitch has stated that it isn’t backing down. The experiment will run its course, the company said, and it will review the data afterwards. I simply can’t imagine that said data will show that intrusive ads that everyone hates are good for the company.

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Companies: twitch

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Comments on “Twitch Experiments With Intrusive Ads That Piss Off Its Most Important Asset, Its Talent”

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24 Comments
That One Guysays:

That's one way to get people to hate your ads...

It’s actually almost impressive, they’ve somehow managed to make ads even more annoying and likely to drive people off than flashing banners online or multi-minute commercial breaks for tv.

Pausing a stream to force an ad before resuming the stream would be annoying enough, but to minimize and mute the stream, with the steamer having no idea it’s happening takes the annoyance of your standard commercial and ramps it up to 11, to the point that I can’t imagine the ads in question are going to be getting positive results since people are going to immediately associate them with annoyance and frustration.

Anonymoussays:

Screen Reader users hate you with the incandescent fire of a trillion suns.
We have to let our ‘Readers read the entire screen to us because we can’t see to interact with the computer otherwise. Forcing an auto-playing ad on us means we want to make it stop. We can’t DO that because we can’t hear the ‘Reader over the ad. You’ve forced an auto-playing & essentially unskipable ad down our throats. Meanwhile the content we’ve come to enjoy we can no longer get because of said ad having muted said content.
You know what happens when a blind person can’t get the tv to STFU with an ad we can’t make go away? We unplug the tv & render the ad moot. You do that via your site & we’ll Control+F4 the tab & render your ad moot as well. Like the tv, we won’t be back any time soon to view your content knowing it can be interrupted at any time in a fashion we can’t control.
I realize blind folks may not be a huge portion of your audience, but the bulk of viewers will eventually need some form of assistive technology — from a screen reader, screen magnification, subtitles, etc — and your auto-playing ads are an excellent way to force every single one of us/them to avoid your site like the openly hostile abusive POS it’s become.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

The only real suggestion I?ve seen for adequately dealing with this bullshit cuts right to the core issue: Cancel subscriptions to Twitch channels.

Streamers have admitted that they don?t make a bunch of money from ads. Twitch would probably admit that it doesn?t make a shitload of money from ads, too. But Twitch does make a shitload of money from its cut of channel subscription fees. Streamers will revolt if people cancel their subscriptions en masse and refuse to renew them in protest. Once that happens, Twitch will have no choice but to take their concerns seriously???because Twitch needs the streamers more than the streamers need Twitch.

PaulTsays:

Re:

"The only real suggestion I?ve seen for adequately dealing with this bullshit cuts right to the core issue: Cancel subscriptions to Twitch channels."

I’d say that’s bound to happen. Most of the audience won’t know or care that the streamers aren’t getting a cut of the ads, and if someone’s showing you ads why would you also voluntarily pay for the service if you have the choice not to? Especially if the service has suddenly become annoying with the content you’re watching often disappearing at important points in the stream.

naschsays:

Re: Re:

Then non-subscribers who are getting these ads should just quit watching Twitch. Not that I expect that to happen, but if they saw viewership take a precipitous dive, that would be the only signal telling them to abandon the experiment (other than large numbers of streamers leaving the service). If people continue to put up with the ads, Twitch will continue playing them.

Coyne Tibbetssays:

I simply can’t imagine that said data will show that intrusive ads that everyone hates are good for the company.

I don’t know what planet you live on, but…

What’s good for the company — any company — is profit. Always, only profit. All the evils that companies do to consumers — intrusive ads, invasion of privacy, regulatory capture, intellectual property abuse, price gouging, and etc. — it’s all done in service of greater profit. The theory that companies should benefit anyone other than themselves went out before button shoes.

You say that you "…can’t imagine that said data will show…," well, the only data Twitch management will consider is the bottom line. Outraged comments will be ignored. "Talent" that votes with their feet will be ignored. If the bottom line tilts up, Twitch will do these ads, and the "talent" is given a blunt choice: live with it or go elsewhere.

PaulTsays:

Re:

"What’s good for the company — any company — is profit."

Yes, and what’s being said is that this might reduce the profits, and do it in the dumbest way possible. Some streamers might live with it, but if their audience react by saying "if you have ads, we’re not going to pay the subscription to your channel", they might be forced to take action as that’s the sole revenue source for many streamers.

It won’t happen immediately, but it’s a badly implemented solution that makes the service itself much less valuable to a lot of people, and people don’t tend to pay so much for things they don’t value.

Adam Gordonsays:

Re: Re:

I’ve started receiving these ads, and the app or tab gets an instant shut down. Minimizing the stream in the app seems to pause the ads pretty reliably, but I may have to look into changing DNS settings to return 0’s on known ad servers. I’ve already reduced my viewing of the platform, and that may have to go to zero, including my subscriptions (that was the original idea of subs), if this continues. It would be interesting to see Twitch’s revenue comparison, ads vs. subs. For both the platform & streamers, ads pay fractions of pennies, while subs provide each party around $2-3…so seriously, WTF?!

Twitch probably thought the Coronavirus viewing bump was going to be permanent. Now, kids are back in school, and they’ve got to make numbers based on previous projections, so beating their remaining viewers on the head seems like a good “experiment”. The problem is that streaming platforms are a commodity good, it’s just bandwidth & servers. In reality, it’s the streamers that make the platform. Valve is already offering streams in the Steam client, and for a competitor to relieve Twitch of their king-of-the-hill status would be very easy: (1) offer a better viewing experience to the viewer, and (2) offer a better deal to all streamers & e-sports organizers. While switching platforms is hard on streamers, they may end up with no choice. Ultimately, both parties will find each other, thank you very much Twitch.

PaulTsays:

Re: Sorry what... is twitch exactly?

I wonder… What exactly compels someone to jump on to a 3 month old article to say nothing – other than that they’re so ignorant of the world around them they missed the existence of a company that Amazon bought for $970 million 6 years ago and that they’re so lazy that they won’t even do the most cursory research on the subject before announcing their ignorance to the world?

I mean, I understand it if this type of service isn’t for you, it’s the trolling of old news to say nothing more than "I’m a lazy idiot" that I don’t get.

Josays:

insanely aggressive marketing

I canceled my amazon account after they started forcing ads on prime members, i was sick of the shady bs they been pulling, let me tell you that it was tough not having the convenience of amazon during the lockdowns but looks like it was taking a month or more anyways. Nw they are really starting to push things too far and I’m about to delete my twitch account for good. Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, now he’s just him stroking his ego.

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