Live-streaming is a vital tool for mainstream entertainment. Conventions sell access to panel discussions via remote attendance, and the NFL streams football games. Though now wildly popular, streaming has its roots in, of all things, video games.
There is a reason for the wild popularity--at least with the Streamers who are at the top of the heap of emerging youtube celebrities.
Lots and lots and lots (and lots) of money.
Check out BusinessInsider's list of the top 11 streamers (many of whom make over 10 million a year)
Algorithms and audiences
Much has been said about the YouTube algorithm, the almighty force that decides which videos to recommend to viewers. In the early twenty-teens, the algorithm changed to favor “watch time” instead of number of views—how long people were staying to watch versus how many people clicked on a video, as well as how many people returned to the channel. Gaming YouTubers excelled under these conditions: one video game could stretch across several episodes and ensure people returned to watch more.
Gaming made another great leap forward in the form of live-streaming. Streamers will play for two, three, six hours while fans watch alongside them. Many streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch offer donation functionality, and it’s from donations and ad revenue that streamers can make their money. For the very lucky streamers, income can also come in the form of sponsorship.
Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins earned the title of most-watched Twitch streamer of 2018, and made a whopping ten million from his efforts. Blevins detailed the toll of that paycheck in an interview with ESPN: privacy, quality time with his family, and rest. He might stream seventeen hours a day but he has to stream for ten more the next. If he misses a day of streaming, he loses tens of thousands of subscribers.
Lately, the hot topic across YouTube is creator burnout. Many creators have spent years building their channel and their brand, only to be exhausted by the daily slog. Slowing down, though, must be avoided at all costs, since a regular content schedule is the key to success. And yet, despite their best efforts, recommended feeds were filling up with videos from big-name entertainment companies. The creators who had elevated YouTube’s status as an all-important platform were being forced out of promotion.
As I lay out the facts and the environment of online entertainment, one thing becomes clear: live-streamers will get the same treatment before long. Streaming demands more time and greater performances than YouTube. No one can sustain seventeen-hour streams in the long term. Right now, entertainment companies tend to reserve streaming for one-off events, but the entertainment industry is one of innovation, and it will not be long until they find something that could capture millions of viewers for six hours every day.
I predict streamers will feel the ache of burnout much quicker than YouTubers. Burnout exists in every industry, but so much of online entertainment is a one-man show. Creators and streamers have only themselves or, if they’re lucky, a small team of people behind them. So when streamers hit the point of burnout and big corporations muscle into the medium, streaming will lose the fundamental intimacy between entertainer and fan that makes streams so appealing.