Twitch is the center of live streaming on the internet. The Amazon-owned platform had 9.36 million active streamers in April 2021 and viewers went from watching 4.7 trillion hours of content in the second quarter of 2020 to 6.5 trillion hours of content in mid 2021.
There is also a massive problem with Twitch’s safety features, especially for people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community. Hate raids—where bots flood a streamer’s chat with hateful messages—have become increasingly frequent since July. The raids, which have been present for years on Twitch, have become so frequent and disruptive that some streamers organized a walkout on Sept. 1 to bring attention to the issue.
YouTube, a platform that owns 23% of streaming hours watched, has been using its abundant resources to take on Twitch in becoming the king of the live streaming world. It signed powerhouse streamers Tim “TimTheTatMan” Betar and Ben “DrLupo” Lupo to exclusive contracts recently.
YouTube has the same issues as Twitch
“I think putting more of a spotlight on other platforms is important to try and push for all platforms to grow and adapt and be this safe place for people to be able to enjoy gaming,” DrLupo said in an interview. The Google-owned platform has been lauded as an alternative to Twitch, one that can prove that viable alternatives exist for streamers in both a source of income and safety. YouTube is far larger than Twitch in terms of video on demand viewers and content creators, but it’s still far from Twitch’s level of success. Leadership at YouTube is hoping to change that, but will creators—especially those at the highest risk—be any safer there?
“YouTube won’t be remotely different from Twitch,” Twitch streamer Vanessa B, who goes by PleasantlyTwstd, said.
Hate raids, harassment and other issues have plagued creators on Twitch for years, but four streamers that Upcomer spoke with don’t believe those problems will magically go away if they switch to streaming on YouTube. YouTube has been sued by LGBTQ+ creators for discrimination, doesn’t have comparable moderation tools, has dealt with past harassment campaigns on their platform poorly and has been just as reactive as Twitch in some scenarios.
“It’s a platform, so it’ll never have my trust,” said prominent Twitch streamer Tanya “Cypher” DePass. Cypher mentioned the toxic nature of comments on YouTube and how there is a Chrome extension “just to hide the comments.”
Many Twitch streamers already use YouTube to host and monetize VODs of past streams and alongside other short-form video content. The jump to using that platform for streaming over Twitch isn’t as easy change to make, though.
“You need 4000 unique views over a certain time on YouTube in order to get some of the same perks you’d have on Twitch,” Cypher said. “A lot of people don’t hit 4000 on Twitch, it’s going to be harder for people to go there.”
YouTube discoverability, while better due to how customizable YouTube pages are and how many more options creators have when uploading them, is still poor for creators who are trying to make a name for themselves. Creators who make the jump from Twitch to YouTube may find themselves starting from scratch.
Can YouTube build trust?
Streamers who have built their audience and brand on Twitch don’t necessarily want to leave, but they do want far more action than what the platform has done so far. After more than a month since hate raids have starting ramping up, Twitch has acknowledged them and shared a suite of tools that most steamers already know about. The major consensus from streamers is that Twitch needs to do more.
“I personally don’t want to leave Twitch,” PleasantlyTwstd said. “That’s where my platform has been built. It’s where my opportunities have branched from and where my partnerships have flourished.”
But controversy after controversy where Twitch goes through the same song and dance, telling streamers that they’ve been heard and that they’re working on it has gotten old. Streamers have started to consider an alternative to the 50% cut of subscriptions that Twitch takes, especially with how Twitch doesn’t let it’s affiliates and partners stream elsewhere or co-stream. Cypher tried to stream on the front page of Steam, but Twitch said no.
Twitch is giving creators no choice. They are hoping that platforms like AltairTV and Glimesh, that prioritize mental health and safety mores than other companies, grow to become sustainable alternatives to the big players.
“I can not in good faith and conscience give Twitch all of my time and energy knowing that I was hate raided for three and a half hours where these people showed up, doxed me live on my stream, put my personal information out there and they harassed my community,” PleasantlyTwstd said. “Twitch’s response was to release the next Public Access and follow it up with an announcement about Subtember. That’s disrespectful as hell.”
YouTube could make moves to build goodwill, including sign popular Black streamers like Mychal “Trihex” Jefferson or D’Juan “Deejay Knight” Irvin to deals similar to the one DrLupo got. A commitment like that would be a way to start building trust, according PleasantlyTwsted and others.
“I fully expect to see many cishet white men get those contracts. And I’m going to be watching closely to see if any of them are black, women, disabled people, trans people. Who are you trying to build on this new platform you’re making?”