Facebook Launches Gaming Creator Program Aimed At Twitch, YouTube

TNL Take: To get some insight into how Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg view competition, read this fantastic article on their war with Google over Google Plus. My favorite part is when he addresses his Facebook army and quotes Roman senator Cato the Elder:

“You know, one of my favorite Roman orators ended every speech with the phrase 'Carthago delenda est.‘ Carthage must be destroyed.’ For some reason I think of that now"

When Facebook sees an opportunity or threat, they maximize their vast audience and resources to counter. Case in point - when was the last time you used Google Plus?

Coming right after their exclusive distribution deal with ESL, Facebook has now launched a Gaming Creator program. The program provides creators the following:

  • Helping gaming creators build more engaged communities

  • Increasing discovery and distribution across multiple surfaces, including Facebook.com, Instagram and Oculus. The last one is key as only Facebook currently has VR hardware in house

  • Supporting gaming creators with the types of tools needed for optimal streaming

FB2.png

If all that sounds very familiar it should be as those features and more have been available to Twitch and YouTube streamers for a while. One additional feature that will be slowly rolled out after its December soft launch is tipping - which now allows for a $3M minimum to be given to creators. While the revenue share was not revealed, previously Facebook has taken anywhere from 30% - 45%.

This move also comes on the announcement that Facebook would overhaul its News Feed to focus on mutual connections vs. news or brand updates. Gaming streams would likely be "stickier" that seeing random videos in your feed. You can also envision a future where  Facebook Watch plays into this and monetization (ie: Video Ads) occurs.

 

While there was plenty of outcry over ESL's exclusive deal with Facebook, this is just the beginning for Zuck and Co. to make more inroads into live streaming and esports.

Facebook's Exclusive ESL Deal Is About Media Rights

TNL Take: Going back to June 2016, we've said the biggest threat to Twitch in live esports was Facebook instead of YouTube. We even analyzed Youtube and Twitch directly stating the formers dominance in all things VOD.

Since Facebook entered the esports space, they've done a slew of content deals including:

That's plenty of inroads over the past 18 months.

Now Facebook is stepping it up further with another exclusive partnership with ESL - this time bringing content that previously lived on YouTube. The partnership includes:

  • ESL One and CS:GO Pro League, which begins in February and an exclusive for 4 seasons till December 2019
  • The first event will be ESL One Genting 2018 that begins this week
  • Other events include ESL One Katowice 2018 and ESL One Cologne 2018 
  • ESL will also produce a weekly show for "Facebook Watch"

 

Let's be clear, this deal is primarily about 1 thing: Minimum Guarantee for broadcast rights that Facebook would pay ESL. While probably nowhere close to BAMTech/Riot Games ($40M+/year) or the reported Overwatch League figure ($45M/year), it's enough that would warrant any drop in viewership or ad revenue. Facebook even recently announced the hiring of Eurosport head Peter Hutton to spearhead their sports rights initiative.

 

What else can Facebook bring to the table that helps ESL?

poy_cover_z_1215.jpg

/01 SCALE: Facebook hit 2 Billion monthly users by the end of Q2 2017. Over half of those users are daily. Which also leads to...

/02 MOBILE: 85% of Facebook's revenues comes from Mobile. As the rest of the world comes online, this is how they're going to access content - not via a PC or console. 

/03 MONETIZATION: Ads, Donations, Subscriptions, Virtual Currency, Sponsorships, Influencer Campaigns - the list goes on.

/04 VR: As VR eventually gathers more audience and others are trying to build VR platforms on top of Twitch or create separate ones, Facebook already has the hardware end with Oculus. From both playing and viewing, the experience potential is endless.

/05 Facebook Watch: Facebook is clearly trying to get as much content for Facebook Watch as possible. Now Facebook Watch allows you to view together with your friends - the social glue that allows engagement with your followers vs. a firehose of viewers,

 

While the viewership numbers may not be Twitch/YouTube levels at the beginning, there is more to this deal than viewership.

YouTube vs. Twitch

YouTube vs. Twitch

The platform wars have begun again (Graphic: The Next Level Media)

The platform wars have begun again (Graphic: The Next Level Media)

By Feature Writer Jordan Fragen

YouTube is in a bit of a crisis.

Despite being the largest platform for gaming video content online, Google’s video platform has seen major changes and controversy over the past six months. Major creators have been deeply affected by advertisers choosing to spend their budgets elsewhere and many have lost 50% or more of their monthly revenue in the wake of what many have dubbed the “Adpocalypse.”

Amidst demonetization and dwindling ad revenues, YouTubers have branched out to diversify their income. Many have moved to Amazon’s Twitch while others have utilized crowd-funding services such as Patreon. YouTube is losing potential revenue despite being the central hub for gaming video content online.

This is a major branding problem for Google.

YouTube’s competitive niche has been narrowing and they are no longer the go-to solution for rising stars to build their name or advertisers to reach the coveted and elusive 18-34 demographic that advertisers seek.

But YouTube is fighting back.

In the last week, Google has announced 3 major changes in order to win creators back to their platform and all of which will deeply impact the eSports ecosystem.

 

/01 YouTube Gaming Announces Sponsorships as a Direct Competitor to Twitch’s Subscriptions

Youtube Sponsorship Details (Graphic: Twitter)

Youtube Sponsorship Details (Graphic: Twitter)

In an August study by Streamlabs, YouTube was outpacing Twitch’s user growth but lagging behind in monetization. This is a major problem for gamers who make a living off of their streams and gameplay. It has been far more efficient to build a presence on Twitch than YouTube primarily because of Twitch’s Subscription service. For $4.99 a month, fans can support their favorite creators and gain access to subscriber only perks such as private discord servers and unique emotes.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, all of these features appear to have been carbon copied by YouTube.

According to an official blog post, eligible YouTube Gaming creators can now receive sponsorships from their fans. Notably, this feature is specifically being rolled out for gaming channels first but may soon be a part of the main YouTube ecosystem.

The primary reason creators use YouTube is for Video On-Demand while Twitch specializes in Live Streaming. However, both of these platforms require a major time investment of which most professionals can’t spare. Many have resorted to uploading long segments from streams to their YouTube channels for this very reason.

The incentives to repurpose content from Twitch on YouTube goes deeper. While most people use Subscribers and Views as a metric to judge the success and profile of a YouTuber, the primary metric YouTube’s algorithm uses when selecting recommended content is neither of those things.

Behind the scenes, YouTube has looked to maximize watch time since 2012.

Gameplay videos are not only easy to watch in long sessions, but they are relatively easy to produce. Recycling content from Twitch only serves to maximize the utility of the content.  By encouraging streaming on YouTube and giving pros another way to monetize through subscriptions, YouTube is looking to move this content to a single location. This is clearly YouTube attempting migrate creators from the dominant platform back to their own.

 

/02 YouTube Analytics Now Provides creators with Subscriber Sources

Connecting Creators with their Audience (Graphic: Google Developers Blog)

Connecting Creators with their Audience (Graphic: Google Developers Blog)

Until now YouTubers have been unable to see data on where new subscribers originated. This is important to understand because it can help creators maximize the growth of their audience base if they know where to target or create content for aka what exactly advertisers do on the opposite side.

In particular, two of the subscriber origin categories will be particularly helpful for YouTubers:

/01 Subscriptions Feed will help creators understand how their content affects current subscribers, both positively and negatively. More specifically, it will tell content creators what videos are annoying their subs enough to cause them to unsubscribe.

/02 Subscriber Drops from closed or “inactive” accounts will now be available to creators. This is hugely important as many viewers have complained that they have been unsubscribed from channels without their knowledge and YouTube has been notorious for dismissing these problems. Now that this information is explicitly available, this will help creators advocate for themselves.

 

/03 YouTube's New Studio App

Powerful Tools Come to Mobile (Graphic: YouTube Creators Blog)

Powerful Tools Come to Mobile (Graphic: YouTube Creators Blog)

Most YouTubers have been unable to effectively manage their channels on mobile. YouTube is looking to change that with the addition of several features to their new Studio app. The two most significant of these features are the ability to schedule posts and customize thumbnails within the app.

Particularly this gives pros more flexibility to also become content creators. Often the most attractive players to eSports organizations are these pros who also build a personal audience as they often have the highest ROI. Until now, many pros simply couldn’t manage their channels regularly due to travel. While not solving this problem entirely, this does give pros more options to build their personal brand.

[Edit: 500M around the world own a phone and don’t have a toothbrush. What do you want to bet on?]

 

CONCLUSION

YouTube remains a key platform to eSports as it is often the place where people first learn about the competitive and professional ecosystem. However once someone new became a fan, they often migrated to Twitch to watch live. YouTube is now seeking to cater to both the live and VOD audience and only time will tell if they can chip away at Twitch’s massive lead on the streaming side.

Personally, I’m skeptical.

By focusing on VOD, YouTube had a unique niche. Seemingly, they have dropped this focus in favor of emulating other’s success. I worry that this strategy might lead to YouTube to becoming the jack of all trades for video, while being the master of none.

Additionally, bringing livestreams and episodic clips to one platform may not be in a creator’s best interest. By releasing shorter, more regularly occurring content, YouTube has conditioned its users to tune into everyday at a specific pace. Creators risk alienating subscribers who already saw this content by re-uploading the livestream in the same location as the VOD. This will affect the algorithm as more subscribers will skip episodes, YouTube will register this as the subscriber becoming less interested in that content and it will lead to fewer recommendations for that creator.  

eSports continues to be one of the most promising spaces for advertisers to reach the critical 18-34 audience. In addition to acquiring exclusive rights to air some tournaments, YouTube is hoping to catering to the needs of pros.

Since many of the stars that built Youtube’s popularly are leaving and taking their desirable audiences elsewhere, YouTube is no longer as culturally relevant as it once was. It may have a larger audience, but tastemakers and trendsetters are no longer prioritizing YouTube. As eSports grows, so too will the star power of its elite players - in addition to the platforms they choose to use. Many like Facebook and Twitter, along with a slew of startups, have already begun reaching out.

Without making more overtures to eSports pros, YouTube risks losing its place as the preeminent platform for internet celebrities, their content, and their cultural relevance.

eSports Wars: The Empire (Twitch) Strikes Back - Part 2

ESPORTS WARS: TWITCH STRIKES BACK - PART 2

eSports Wars: The Empire (Twitch) Strikes Back - Part 2 Photo (Lucasfilm)

TNL Take: In Part 1, I looked at the war that Twitch was facing between YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other players and startups.

Now let's look at how Twitch is fighting back.

Also for the record, "The Empire Strikes Back", is still the best in the entire Star Wars series. Don't @ me.

Twitch has long ruled the gaming live-streaming and eSports space. Although companies like Azubu, Hitbox and MLG (Disclosure: I used to work there) tried to take on Twitch, none of them got close to Twitch’s scale.

With further irony, Azubu acquired Hitbox in January... and then promptly ran out of money.

Amazon bought Twitch for ~$1B back in 2014 and looked like they were going to cement their stranglehold on live-streamed gaming content. However, starting with Activision-Blizzard’s bargain basement acquisition of MLG, things started to ramp up in 2016 with a full court press in 2017.

As I first mentioned in "The eSports Media Evolution" in The Next Level 061 last year, we are starting to see the bifurcation of eSports content across multiple platforms.

eSports Media Evolution (Photo: The Next Level)

For example, here’s what and where you’re going to need to go for Exclusive eSports content now:

  • ESL Counter-Strike Pro League (English) = YouTube
  • Heroes of the Dorm = Facebook
  • ESL TBD Tournaments = Yahoo eSports
  • Rocket League Championship Series = Twitch
  • ESL Weekly eSports Show = Twitter
  • ECS/FACEIT Counter-Strike League = YouTube

Then there are deals like Call of Duty (MLG.tv + Facebook) or ELEAGUE (Twitch + Twitter), which are shown on multiple platforms.

In addition, multiple startups are tackling the opportunity of turning passive viewing into engagement viewing.

So will Twitch sit back and let others write big checks, take their content and for startups to steal their audience?

Not a chance.

Let me be clear though: Twitch is still the undisputed leader when it comes to audience size and scale. It’s challenging to get viewers off of a platform they’ve used for potentially many years and move to another one without significant feature improvements.

When I’ve analyzed events that are shown on multiple platforms (Twitch + Facebook + YouTube Gaming), Twitch wins by a 10X factor sometimes.

Here’s just one example: While this weekend’s Call of Duty World League had about 40,000 viewers on MLG.tv on Saturday, it had ~400 viewers on Facebook – where MLG has 1.2M likes/followers.

That's a fraction of a fraction of an audience.

Here are multiple ways that Twitch is striking back.

 

VIDEO ON DEMAND (VOD)

Twitch Video On Demand (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch has primarily been a live-streaming service. But as I pointed out last year, YouTube makes a ton – the majority – of their money off VOD. Twitch finally addressed Video On Demand.

Counter To: YouTube

 

AMAZON GAME STUDIOS, STREAM+ AND IN GAME CURRENCY

Amazon Game Studio's "Breakaway" With Lumberyard Technology (Photo: Amazon)

The eSports live-viewing experience has to date been a passive experience. A “lean back” experience similar to TV.

If you look at MLG’s EVE (Enhanced Viewing Experience) with it’s fantastic live stat feature or group polls, it’s more of a “lean forward” experience. A few startups – like Genvid and Proletariat – are looking to take making eSports viewing more engaging.

And so is Twitch.

Along with the Twitch Prime announcement, Amazon made a slew of announcements including Twitch integrated games, Stream+ and an In Game Currency. Here's how they all fit together:

  • Amazon has gone on a Gaming hiring spree with industry veterans John Smedley (Ex-Sony Online Entertainment) to head their San Diego studio and Louis Castle (Ex-Command and Conquer) to run their Seattle based studio and work on another game, Crucible.
  • Stream+ provides viewers the ability to earn coins simply for watching a stream which leads to..
  • Using these coins for purchasing in-game items or "polls and wagering" aka Gambling - my guess is that these coins will be universal across Amazon Games
  • Lumberyard is Amazon's technology that enables integrated Twitch streaming for their upcoming games - that's a no brainer
  • The first game to include all of this is Breakaway which also includes: 1/ A broadcaster feature that notifies players when someone in their game is streaming, 2/ Customizable real-time stats and 3/ Ability for the broadcasters to create a community/social network for their viewers...which leads to the next product

Counter To : A whole lot of companies

 

TWITCH PULSE

Twitch's Social Platform Pulse (Photo: Twitch)

This month, Twitch launched a Twitter competitor called Pulse — an updating feed that collects photos, images, and text from Twitch users. 

FYI: Twitch is not bigger than Twitter but it's a good product.

I don't see Pulse as the biggest threat to Twitch but rather Discord, the extremely popular voice/text group chat startup. More on that later.

Counter To: Twitter (Sort Of), Discord, Facebook

 

TWITCH CHEERING

Twitch Launches Cheering Donation/Tip Feature (Photo: Twitch)

If you’re not one of the top Twitch streamers who can rely on Advertising or Sponsorships to monetize, you primarily rely on either Subscriptions or Donations/Tipping.

For a long time, Twitch’s tipping platform was handled by startups like Twitchalerts and Streamtip. With the launch of Twitch Cheering in June, they added another revenue opportunity for their platform – although I disagreed with their 29% revenue cut and thought a Branded Bits feature to sell to Sponsors would work well.

 

TWITCH CLIPS

Twitch Clips Highlights Feature (Photo: Twitch)

For years, there were several startups in the space that focused on eSports highlights directly on the Twitch platform: Plays.tv – which raised shockingly $15M from the 49’ers and the Nets Jeremy Lin – Dingit.tv, Oddshot, Forge and others.

Twitch Clips now provides the same features.

Counter To: Those guys above

 

TWITCH PRIME

Twitch Prime (Photo: Twitch)

I’m a huge fan of Amazon and Amazon Prime, their Free Shipping and access to Amazon's content via a monthly subscription.

Fun Fact: Amazon’s market cap is ~$400B and ~90% of US purchasing is still done offline. #Runway

Last October, Twitch launched Twitch Prime, which is the smartest move that Amazon had done to date.

Anyone who is a member of Amazon Prime automatically gets access to Twitch Prime. The features include:

  • Free Games
  • Exclusive In-Game Items
  • Game Discounts
  • 1 Free Twitch Streamer Subscription per Month
  • Ad Free Experience

Counter To: More accretive to Amazon/Twitch than a counter

 

TWITCH GAME AND ITEM SALES

Twitch Game and Item Sales (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch Game and Item Sales (Photo: Twitch)

Game publishers finally realized that Twitch was a phenomenal Marketing tool because they had 1) The right audience 2) Showed off the actual product 3) It’s Free and 4) Again, it’s Free.

Amazon is already one of the top game retailers in the world.

Peanut butter, please meet jelly.            

Last week, Amazon announced a Game and Item Sales revenue sharing product with their streamers. If a viewer buys either the game/in game items that a Twitch streamer was playing, the streamer gets a 5% cut.

Maybe that should be a higher revenue share but still a great move.

Counter To: GameStop, Steam, Future features from YouTube/Facebook/Twitter

 

TWITCH VOICE

Twitch Acquires Curse (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch acquired Curse last August and outside of their websites and media team – which recently did the Buffalo Wild Wings BDUBS Bowl on Twitch (Disclosure: Versus Sports EA Madden Athlete is playing in this event) – they also got Curse’s voice technology.

Discord is currently the fan favorite and has raised almost $30M. Now combine this feature with the next one.

Counter To: Discord, Teamspeak

 

TWITCH DESKTOP APP

Twitch's Desktop App (Photo: Twitch)

Take everything I've said above and see Twitch integrating into their recently announced desktop app. Voice, chat, in game integration, etc.

While this announcement didn't get the press as the previous features, if Twitch is able to build a one-stop-shop for everything within an app - that could be big.

Dear Twitch and Amazon, thank you for finally working together.

Grab the popcorn - this should be a fun battle to watch.