Twitch Faces Backlash As New Branded Content Policy Sparks Outrage on Social Media

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Twitch Faces Backlash As New Branded Content Policy Sparks Outrage on Social Media

In a recent policy update, Twitch unveiled changes to its guidelines on branded content, leading to widespread criticism from content creators and the esports community.

(Update) Twitch walks back the policy changes

In response to the overwhelming backlash and criticism, Twitch has issued a statement retracting and revising their controversial branded content policy. The statement acknowledged that the policy update was overly broad, leading to confusion and frustration among users, and extended an apology for any inconvenience caused.

Twitch clarified that they do not intend to restrict streamers' ability to establish direct relationships with sponsors, recognizing that such partnerships are crucial for streamers to earn revenue. The platform also emphasized that its initial intention was to clarify the existing ads policy, specifically regarding the prohibition of third-party ad networks selling burned-in video and display ads on Twitch, which aligns with the practices of other platforms in the industry.

Acknowledging the shortcomings in the language of the policy, Twitch promised to rewrite the guidelines to provide clearer and more transparent instructions. The platform expressed gratitude for the community's valuable feedback and assured users that they will be notified once the updated language is implemented.

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In a recent policy update, Twitch unveiled changes to its guidelines on branded content, leading to widespread criticism from content creators and the esports community.

Twitch, the widely acclaimed streaming platform that has revolutionized the gaming and content creation industry, has recently introduced a significant update to its policies governing branded content. Per Twitch guidelines, branded content refers to any content produced by streamers that features products or services in exchange for compensation, such as paid product placements, endorsements or sponsorships. However, the implementation of the new guidelines has ignited a firestorm of discontent resulting in an uproar among Twitch users, content creators and the community as a whole.

Under the revised policy, Twitch has permitted certain brand sponsorship formats, including branded panels on Channel Pages, showcasing products in the stream background, including links to external sites promoting products, discussing or endorsing products/services, and playing sponsored games. However, the platform has imposed several restrictions that have triggered significant outrage:

  • On-stream logos are limited to just 3% of the screen size, potentially impacting the visibility of sponsored content.
  • Burned-in video ads, where advertisements are permanently displayed within the stream, are no longer allowed.
  • Burned-in display ads, which refer to static advertisements overlaid on the screen, are also prohibited.
  • Burned-in audio ads, which involve audio clips promoting products or services, are now disallowed.

The introduction of these stringent limitations has elicited a wave of discontent, with numerous content creators taking to social media to voice their frustration. Among the dissenting voices, popular streamer Karl Jacobs described the new guidelines as “another braindead attempt at becoming profitable at the expense of the streamer,” reflecting the concerns of many who fear that Twitch's leadership may be out of touch with the needs and aspirations of their user base.

One True King (OTK), a notable content creator-owned media organization, has even gone so far as to issue a stern ultimatum, declaring their intention to sever ties with Twitch should these changes come into effect. The Chief Operating Officer of OTK Tips Out lamented that the revised sponsorship rules directly undermine their business, staff and the immense effort invested in building their organization.

The future of esports on Twitch is uncertain

While content creators are grappling with the implications of Twitch's policy shift, the impact on esports tournament organizers looms large. The esports industry, already operating within a precarious economic landscape, heavily relies on sponsorship agreements to sustain its events. However, with the newly enforced restrictions on logo size and the prohibition of burned-in ads, concerns are mounting that potential advertisers may find Twitch advertising spots less appealing. This development exacerbates the financial struggles already faced by the esports community, raising significant questions about the future of tournament monetization.

The future of esport broadcasts and monetization was already a big talking point in recent weeks on social media, with the recent news about the economic problems of the LCS teams fresh on everyone's minds. One of the quickest ways for organizers to monetize their tournaments is exclusive broadcasting rights, which aren't too common in esports.

In a related development, recent reports have emerged suggesting that the Call of Duty League is contemplating a new exclusivity deal with YouTube for the upcoming 2023/2024 season. While the CEO of OpTic Gaming, Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez, has disputed these reports, the prospect of exclusive broadcasting agreements resurfaces as a central topic of discussion within the esports community.

It is worth noting that exclusive broadcast deals for esports tournaments haven’t found too much success in the past. The biggest such move was back in 2018 when ESL signed an exclusive broadcasting deal with Facebook for its CS:GO events, which ended up as a failed move. However, the growing influence of YouTube as a streaming platform, coupled with its demonstrated willingness to invest in streamers, may entice tournament organizers to explore alternative platforms given the recent policy changes on Twitch.

At present, Twitch has yet to comment on the updated guidelines or address the concerns raised by the community. The platform's response will likely be closely monitored by content creators and the esports industry as they navigate the evolving landscape of monetization in the streaming world.

Twitch Faces Backlash As New Branded Content Policy Sparks Outrage on Social Media
Rohat Dicle Kılınç
Rohat is a writer mainly focused on the League of Legends esports scene, and an LCS hopeful.