Tensions between Twitch and its biggest streamers reached a new high last week when the platform announced, then quickly walked back, new restrictions on how ads are embedded in streams. The planned changes would've prohibited streamers from using "burned-in" video ads that circumvent Twitch's ad network, as well as limiting on-screen logos to just 3% of the total screen space.
Streamers hated the now-canceled changes, not only because they would've made it harder to secure branding deals that represent a lot of their revenue, but because many streamers agree that Twitch's official revenue streams are lackluster.
Twitch's monetization problems were among the subjects of a recent Just Chatting stream by Harris Heller, a longtime Twitch streamer who also made the copyright-free music library StreamBeats, that ended in an awkward exchange with a senior Twitch employee.
Twitch employee and Heller go back and forth on Heller's stream
Heller criticized Twitch for not implementing "proper monetization strategies," citing its "crazy" 50/50 stream revenue cut and intrusive, mandatory pre-roll ads. Heller cited a tweet from Elgato general manager Julian Fest offering to become Twitch's CEO for a year to "help fix things." It was around this time that Twitch creative and editorial director Seth Hendrix, who up to this point had chimed in with minor comments like "..." and "lol" in Heller's chat, spoke up to push back against Heller's diagnosis.
"Harris, I love you. But I would love to talk to you 1:1 sometime," Hendrix said.
Heller said he'd love to talk with Twitch, but also recalled past experiences working with Twitch to brainstorm solutions or features that'd eventually get "shot down by executives."
"It was always a bummer, but I love talking with staff," Heller added.
An uncomfortable air developed as Hendrix's toned turned less cordial in chat, and he continued insisting Heller wasn't seeing the full picture.
"I think you have a lot of good ideas. But you're mising [sic] sooo much," Hendrix said.
"Of course I'm missing so much," Heller said. "I'm looking at it from the outside. I don't claim to know everything. But it's true that Twitch isn't doing a very good job of monetizing. If the only way that Twitch can salvage money is to take 50% of what creators make, then they're doing it wrong."
Heller, visibly put off by the exchange, tried to change the subject. Moments later, Hendrix was back.
"No one is saying you're wrong about anything. Just you have so many assumptions that are so way off," Hendrix replied.
Heller laughed off the comment and tried to defuse the situation.
"Anyways, I love you guys over at Twitch. No hate over here, but we're all frustrated. And honestly, coming into a stream and saying 'sorry man, you're wrong' doesn't fix anything."
"Lol again—not saying you're wrong. But ok," Hendrix said.
The stream went on like this for several more minutes, with Heller trying to change the subject and Hendrix writing vague comments about Heller being right, but also wrong, and insisting he never said he was wrong. With his head burrowing into his hands, Heller had finally had enough.
"Seth, I don't understand why we're having this conversation. If Twitch is trying to fix its appearance with streamers, you can't come into a streamer's chat, hijack their entire stream, tell them they're 'way off,' and then argue with me."
It was a pretty weird exchange, and it only got worse when Heller tried to ban Hendrix from his stream, only to find out you can't ban Twitch staff.
"You can't ban Twitch staff. Oh my gosh," Heller said in a defeated tone.
"And you try to ban me? WOW," wrote Hendrix.
"Of course I tried to ban you! Anyone would get banned for doing what you're doing right now, this is so weird!" Heller said.
Heller, shaken by the uncomfortable exchange, decided to end the stream early.
"Yea I'm gonna end the stream. I can't focus right now, I'm gonna go."
I...I'm sorry that happened.June 13, 2023
Twitch's apology and the minor fallout
A clip of the stream surfaced on Twitter and subsequently blew up. Twitch hasn't issued a formal statement about the event, but director of community marketing and production Merry Kish apologized to Heller on Twitter, and told one user that "it's being handled internally."
Heller addressed the "weird thing" that happened on stream in a YouTube video published today, saying he's since been in contact with Twitch staff about the incident.
"I've had a couple members of Twitch staff reach out to me and see if everything's OK, which it is by the way, everything's fine. It wasn't a big deal."
Not the most explosive controversy Twitch has ever seen, but the uncomfortable exchange speaks to the widening gap between Twitch and its users, as the streaming giant continues to squeeze creators in its struggle to be a profitable business. It's no wonder that some streamers are looking at the new platform on the block, Kick, and seeing potential. Though, considering Kick's viewers are mostly watching terrible gambling streams, I wouldn't put all my eggs in that basket either.