Twitch streamers revolt against new limits on branded sponsorships: "This is a direct attack on our business"

Twitch updates branded content guidelines
(Image credit: Twitch)

Twitch streamers are pushing back against the platform's new "branded content guidelines" that will put tight limits on how advertisements can be run on their channels—and at least one prominent channel is threatening to leave Twitch entirely if the planned changes aren't dropped.

The new guidelines page starts off with a detailed breakdown of what does and doesn't qualify as branded content, and when and how promotions and sponsorships need to be disclosed. There's also a bit about a branded content disclosure too, that "enables you to easily notify your community that your stream includes branded content."

Things take a turn in the second part of the page, though, where Twitch lays out "permitted and prohibited brand sponsorship formats," and cuts right to what it's really all about: money.

"We recognize that streamers want to collaborate with brands, but as outlined in the Terms of Service we maintain the exclusive right to sell, serve, and display advertisements on the Twitch Services," the page states. "This means that you may not insert, embed, or 'burn in' prerecorded advertising units into your livestream."

The page also explains in graphical format what is and isn't allowed. This is okay:

(Image credit: Twitch)

And this is not:

(Image credit: Twitch)

The new policies are a potentially big problem for a lot of streamers. Many streamers favor the types of sponsored content that Twitch is now outlawing because they're able to serve ads to viewers without giving a cut to Twitch. To some of the biggest streamers, these brand deals are the backbone of their income. Not only do the limits on ad placement threaten to cut into the revenue streams of individual streamers, it could also force gaming events like Evo and Games Done Quick to change their entire stream layouts. 

This, for instance, is a still from the Evo Japan 2023 stream that took place in April. Notice the large ad window across the bottom:

(Image credit: Evo)

"This Twitch announcement would be less concerning if I had faith in Twitch's sales team being able to meet the needs of an entire planet worth of live events," Evo general manager Rick Thiher tweeted.

ShyLily, who has 1.1 million followers on Twitch, was a bit more to the point in their assessment, tweeting, "What the fuck, twitch feeling very confident right now."

Alex Jebailey, founder of CEO Gaming and face of the famed "Jebaited" emoticon, offered to take one for the team if Twitch agreed to drop the new guidelines:

(Image credit: Alex Jebailey)

"I’ve got my fingers crossed Twitch sees the feedback on this and it doesn’t actually go through as it would kill basically any sponsorships our live events can work with to help us," Jebailey added. "Thankfully it doesn’t start til after CEO takes place so I can honor the sponsors I do have."

OTKnetwork took a harder-nosed approach, saying that it will leave Twitch outright if the new rules go through. "This is a direct attack on our business, staff, and all of the hard work we have put into our organization," OTKnetwork co-founder Tips Out tweeted.

(Image credit: Twitter)

(Image credit: Twitter)

(Image credit: Twitter)

In response to the pushback, Twitch acknowledged on Twitter that it "missed the mark with the policy language and will rewrite the guidelines to be clearer." 

"Today’s branded content policy update was overly broad. This created confusion and frustration, and we apologize for that," Twitch tweeted. "We do not intend to limit streamers’ ability to enter into direct relationships with sponsors, and we understand that this is an important part of how streamers earn revenue. We wanted to clarify our existing ads policy that was intended to prohibit third party ad networks from selling burned in video and display ads on Twitch, which is consistent with other services."

But that doesn't appear to have quelled the upset, as the bulk of replies point out—accurately—that the problem isn't one of clarity, but one of content: The guidelines are perfectly clear, and they're bad.

"Walk the whole thing back and come back with something that empowers creators," streamer King Gothalion tweeted in response to Twitch's apology.

There's still plenty of time for Twitch to adjust or reverse the changes without causing any great disruption: The new rules aren't slated to go into effect until July 1, "to ensure that streamers have time to adjust to these new guidelines and communicate these changes with their sponsors." I've reached out to Twitch for comment and will update if I receive a reply.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.