Kick lures disenchanted Twitch streamers, for now

In the wake of Twitch’s seemingly unattainable Partner Plus program, which grants a 70/30 subscription revenue split on the first annual $100,000 that qualifying Partners make, jaded streamers are claiming that they’ll move to the streaming rival Kick.

The new livestreaming platform offers streamers a 95/5 subscription revenue split — a fraction of Twitch’s standard 50% cut, which it takes from both affiliates and partners.

Though it isn’t uncommon for new social platforms to use bait-and-switch tactics to attract new users, many streamers are already flocking to Kick. It’s possible that Kick will change its revenue split as it grows, or move the goalposts to qualify for monetization, but the site has already signed prominent streamers.

Major Twitch creators have been swayed into joining Kick, including Félix “xQc” Lengyel, who signed a $100 million non-exclusive deal with the platform last week. Days later, Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa also announced that she’s joining Kick. The details of her deal have not been disclosed.

“Twitch’s ‘sin’ isn’t trying to squeeze their creators,” Siragusa tweeted from her personal account after announcing the deal. “Their sin is making a business model that doesn’t succeed except maybe at the YouTube scale — but livestreaming is a much smaller TAM [total available market] than pre-recorded video (esp when tiktok won the ultra short form streams).”

Select Twitch Partners were previously offered a premium 70/30 revenue split, until Twitch announced plans to ax the premium deal in favor of pushing ads. Streamers grandfathered into the arrangement would still receive a 70% cut of subscription revenue on the first $100,00 they made annually, and any revenue beyond that would default to a 50/50 split with the platform. Streamers were outraged.

When Twitch rolled out its Partner Plus tier, some creators praised it as a win for streamers. But to qualify for the program, Twitch Partners must have at least 350 paid, recurring monthly subs. Gift and Prime subs aren’t counted toward the minimum but do count toward the $100,000 cap on the 70/30 revenue split. The Partner Plus tier excludes the vast majority of streamers; only 2.5% of active Partners would qualify for the program, according to the analytics site Streams Charts.

The Partner Plus program announcement strained an already tense relationship between Twitch and its creators. Many who don’t meet the steep requirements floated moving to Kick, where they’d get a significantly higher cut of their own subscription revenue. Others, unsettled by Kick’s minimal moderation and generous promises, said they’re leaning toward more established platforms like YouTube.

Kick’s usership has skyrocketed since releasing its mobile app in March and continues to lure popular streamers away from Twitch with glitzy nonexclusive deals.

But what is Kick anyway?

Kick’s origins

Last September, just before Twitch announced plans to cut its 70/30 sweetheart deal, a gambling scam on the platform incited a widespread push for Twitch to crack down on betting sites.

Multiple creators, including Ludwig Ahgren, Mizkif, Lukafkfan and Trainwreck, accused U.K.-based streamer ItsSliker of misleading them into loaning him money to fund his gambling addiction. Lengyel estimated that the loans totaled about $300,000.

Major Twitch Partners like Pokimane and Hasan Piker called on the company to stop the gambling sites that proliferated on the platform. In response to the backlash, which included boycott threats, Twitch updated its policy to prohibit “slots, roulette, or dice games” that aren’t licensed in the U.S. or other markets with “sufficient” consumer protections. A slew of sites like the crypto betting hub Stake, Rollbit and Duelbits were banned from Twitch.

In December, Trainwreck, whose real name is Tyler Niknam, announced plans to join the newly launched livestreaming site Kick as a “non-owner advisor and non-exclusive broadcaster.” The platform offers streamers 95% of their subscription revenue, and streamers will be able to keep 100% of the tips they receive from viewers.

“You won’t have to rely on your subscriber count alone every month. You’ll get a steady income based on hours watched and total viewers you stream to with an option to be paid out on the same day,” Niknam said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Many online were skeptical that Niknam would be able to pull it off, and questioned if Kick was another scam. Niknam told the Washington Post that Stake owner Eddie Craven was an investor in the site, which Kick confirmed. Stake itself is not involved in the platform.

Marcus “djWheat” Graham, Twitch’s former director of creator development, decried Kick as a “sham” in a series of December tweets. He questioned how a crypto gambling site’s involvement in a livestreaming platform equates to a “creator-first” approach to content, rather than “gambling first.”

“Research has revealed that this site is connected with Stake.com in some way. The fact that there is zero transparency about the relationship and even attempts to hide this detail from creators should be incredibly troubling to everyone,” Graham wrote. “I want to be proven wrong because competition in this space is essential. But if Kick is really going to try to get their feet wet, they first need to come clean about what involvement Stake has, and what that means for any creator who uses it.”

In a follow-up tweet, Graham said he spoke with Niknam and appreciated the “constructive conversation” they had.

“He is adamant about making this happen and I told him I would be the first to praise their success,” Graham said.

Kick’s promises

In addition to offering a 95/5 split on subscription revenue, Niknam said that Kick will roll out a creator program that pays streamers hourly, regardless of viewership or subscriptions. In another statement posted in January, Niknam said that a “formula” will pay out streamers based on the hours they stream, a flat rate based on Kick’s advertising revenue, their average viewership, and viewer engagement. Kick has not rolled out its hourly pay program yet.

Niknam added that the creator program will pay streamers via Stripe once a month, or on the same day after their stream ends via Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Becoming a Kick affiliate unlocks paid subscriptions. To qualify, streamers must stream for 5 hours and have a minimum of 75 followers. Kick unveiled its Verified program in April, which grants streamers a checkmark on their channel. The site said its Verified program is still in beta and that affiliates will be manually verified. To qualify, streamers must stream for a total of 30 hours for 12 unique days in 30 days and have a minimum average of 75 viewers per stream. They also need a minimum of 20 active subs and 300 “chatters” — viewers interacting in the stream’s chat — over 30 days. The requirements are similar to Twitch’s.

Kick’s moderation struggle

As its popularity rises, Kick has also faced widespread backlash for its lax moderation. In March, a Kick representative told Bloomberg that the site is “expanding its moderation efforts” daily, that the site complies with Digital Millennium Copyright Act requests and does not tolerate hate speech.

Kick’s community guidelines forbid nudity, hate speech, violent conduct, doxxing, fraud and a plethora of other actions that other livestreaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube also prohibit. Gambling with other users is also banned, including “buy-in” programs like sweepstakes and lotteries, but it does allow users to stream gambling games as long as they abide by local laws and regulations. But the platform’s critics have pointed out that content in clear violation of its policies continues to fly under the radar, since Kick lacks robust moderation.

Adin Ross, the controversial streamer who was permanently banned from Twitch in February for unmoderated hateful conduct in his chat, has been one of Kick’s most vocal supporters. Ross was banned after showing his Kick chat, which was littered with racist and antisemitic comments, on a Twitch stream. He has since shown porn to his Kick viewers, platformed white supremacist Nick Fuentes and an anonymous self-described neo-Nazi, and streamed rambling diatribes about gender, race, and cancel culture.

A Kick representative told Rolling Stone that the site is “currently in Beta and our moderation scales each day with a focus on intent.” They also said that Ross “makes the necessary adjustments every day through fruitful human-to-human discussions.”

In response to a tweet about Kick failing to automatically ban slurs, co-founder Eddie Craven said that the site has “advanced moderation tools just around the corner.”

“Still early stage beta and we have a lot more work to do but we’re getting there,” he said.

Days later, streamer LtKanada called out Niknam and Kick for failing to ban a user with a racial slur in their username.

“I think Kick is a platform that could have potential, and I’ve enjoyed a few of my streams on [there] and met cool people,” he said in a tweet. “But there’s definitely a lot of things that need to be tweaked. No creator should be harassed like this on any platform. Ruined my vibe and I hope for better.”

Later that month, Kick announced plans to crack down on nudity and sexual conduct on the platform. The site now bans performing sexual activities for subs or tips, and prohibits underwear, lingerie, and pasties. Bikinis and swimwear are still permitted. In May, Kick rolled out chat rules and custom banned channel words — which some irate creators described as the “bare minimum” for a social media platform.

“Hey man if you can build your own global streaming platform in 4 months send me your resume,” Kick head of product Paulie Chianese tweeted in response to the criticism.

Who’s on Kick? Who isn’t?

Ross was the most viewed streamer on Kick in April, according to a report by Streams Charts and StreamElements.

Other popular Kick streamers also started on Twitch or YouTube, including Roshtein, Corinna Kopf, and Ice Poseidon. In late March, American chess grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura announced that he signed a nonexclusive deal with Kick. He won’t leave Twitch yet, he said, but will be “streaming in both places moving forward.”

Tyler “Ninja” Blevins began streaming on Kick in June, and teased leaving Twitch once his Partner contract ends.

“For the record I have a couple of streams scheduled on Twitch, due to a contract I signed previous to the new TOS,” he said in a tweet. “Those streams will continue to go live until the contract ends and the State Farm show ends.”

Other major streamers are still holding out on joining Kick, though. Ludwig Ahgren, who broke Twitch’s all-time sub record before moving to YouTube Gaming in late 2021, raised eyebrows this month after fans found a Verified Kick account under his name. In a stream this week, Ludwig clarified that he’s “fully contracted” at YouTube and has no plans to move to the new platform.

“I like YouTube. I’ve been YouTube’s guy. I don’t take my job for granted,” he told viewers. “I’m happy with how things are, you know? And my contract is also still going on for another few months here, so we’re not at that point yet. We’re still early days! We’ve got months and months to go.”

Imane “Pokimane” Anys took a stronger stance against the platform. In a stream this week, she said that profiting off of Kick would compromise her “morals and ethics,” which she described as “so cringe” because she’s already financially secure. She pointed out that Lengyel (xQc) has made gambling content, so it makes sense for him to join Kick, but that it “looks desperate” for her to do the same.

“I hope — especially smaller streamers — make good money off of whatever’s happening on Kick,” Anys said, later adding, “I would rather make $0 and keep my dignity.”

Kick lures disenchanted Twitch streamers, for now by Morgan Sung originally published on TechCrunch


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