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Are Twitch Streamers Being Paid Too Much?

A phone with the Twitch app open is held before a blurred monitor screen.
Are streamer's high earnings the problem? Source: Marco Verch (via Flickr)

By Francesca Ionescu | Contributor

On the 6th of October, Twitch was hacked. An anonymous poster on 4Chan leaked a 125GB torrent, which The Verge (a US based tech blog) later verified as legitimate. The most controversial part of the leak was the details regarding creators’ pay, going back as far as three years. Multiple streamers received hate regarding how much they are being paid, and it raises the question: are streamers paid too much?

Twitch functions on people subscribing to individual streamers for a fee of $5 a month, 50% going to the streamer and the other half to Twitch itself. Streamers also can receive donations from their viewers, sponsorships, ad revenue as well as possible contracts with Twitch if they agree to exclusively stream on the platform. The leak showed streamers have made millions since August 2019, with Critical Role having made $9,626,712.16 and ranking first on the leak list. On top of this, Hasan Piker, a political commentator and streamer, has already been under fire for buying a $2.74 million house in Hollywood, and now it has been revealed he made $2,810,480.11 since August 2019. 

In my opinion, streamers’ work is not exploitative, nor is it involving anyone’s labour by their own. Their payment is not reflected by a profit margin, but rather by the public engagement they receive. Twitch has this revenue built into the platform, where the more popular a streamer is the more they will receive from subscriptions and donations.

The leak only showed the payment streamers have received through the platform and therefore reflects what they have been given voluntarily. Of course, Twitch’s platform could be to blame. Twitch’s algorithms benefit popular streamers as well as creators who join the platform with a pre-existing audience. However, to say that a content creator is to blame for the money they receive for their content is ironic for people who have lived through the Covid-19 lockdown. Content creators were a huge part of people’s lives when everything else was unavailable, so it is natural their pay would spike as a result of this.

Ultimately, entertainment has carried many through the pandemic, and while streamers do get paid a lot, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with it when it reflects their audience’s support of them.

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