To the undiscerning eye, it may seem like Amazon ($AMAZON) has a monopoly over the games streaming space with Twitch. One of their largest competitors in Microsoft’s ($MSFT) Mixer is now out of the picture, and while Youtube Gaming ($GOOGL) is starting to draw in more consistent viewership, it still doesn’t hold a candle to Twitch’s throne in internet culture.
But there’s one thing preventing Twitch from owning the space entirely: exclusivity. Mixer launched the first blow against Twitch back in August 2019 when it signed a multi-million dollar deal to have popular streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins stream exclusively on their platform, and it's been a rat race ever since. Two days ago, news broke that Twitch had signed yet another multi-million dollar exclusivity deal, this time with popular rapper Logic who has been open about his love for games throughout his career.
But how much do these exclusivity deals really help Twitch? The downfall of Mixer and our data shows they may not be worth the millions these platforms give them away for.
Twitch’s first swath of exclusivity deals came on December 11, 2019, followed by some scattered deals with huge names like Pokimane and Dr. Disrespect (who has since been unceremoniously banned from the platform) in early March, another on May 27 with several streamers in May and just this week with Logic. The most immediately noticeable trend in our App Store data for Twitch is that there is no trend at all. Looking at the short period of time after each deal was announced, the rate of reviews did not increase or even briefly spike in reaction to the news. While the rate of reviews did dramatically increase towards mid-to-late March, the lack of previous spikes tells us it was more so because of COVID-19 than any deal. The approximate 150,000 drop in reviews between March 20 and March 25 was due to a purge of old or bot reviews across the App Store.
But it’s not just the App Store. Facebook Talking About data shows a similar trend. There are significant spikes in buzz around Twitch throughout the last year, but almost none immediately followed the news of an exclusivity deal. One could argue that the very first in December and the group of announcements on May 27 are exceptions, as spikes did occur, but they notably peak far lower than spikes caused by other events.
So why, then, are streaming platforms so concerned with exclusivity? The most obvious answer is that keeping a wildly popular streamer on your platform means their massive viewership stays there too. But it could also keep smaller streamers with more dedicated communities on the platform in the hopes that they, too, can land a cushy multimillion dollar deal. Some variation of “streamer” or “content creator” always moves further up the lists of desired jobs, and seenig people make the big bucks on your same platform might have a trickle-down, “Maybe THIS will be my winning lottery ticket” effect.
But the collapse of Mixer despite signing away two of Twitch’s streamers suggests that the strength of these platforms isn’t built off big names as much as it is large clusters of smaller, dedicated communities. All of the streaming platforms competing with Twitch have signed exclusivity agreements of some sort. Youtube Gaming has a deal to exclusively stream the Overwatch League ($ATVI). Facebook Gaming ($FB) signed on popular streamer Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang. But these deals haven’t exactly lit the platforms on fire, though Youtube Gaming is beginning to figure it out.
The move to sign on a celebrity like Logic from the non-gaming world is a marked change from previous deals. Though Twitch is primarily a games streaming platform, the popularity of the “Just Chatting” category has prompted Twitch to add categories for “Sports” and “Music & Performing Arts.” The deal with Logic may be aimed at scooping up a non-gaming crowd and getting them into watching streams before any of its competitors have the idea to do so.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.