Kick is a new streaming service that's willing to make multi-million-dollar bets on talent, directly challenging Amazon-owned Twitch. Not only did the service make headlines for signing a $100 million non-exclusive deal with Félix "xQc" Lengyel, but it's also offering streamers a revenue split of 95/5. That means streamers can keep 95% of the revenue from subscriptions. To put that into context, Twitch offers a 50/50 split for most streamers, and YouTube Gaming offers 70/30.
For years, video game streaming has been dominated by Twitch. It has made it difficult for newcomers to steal Twitch's thunder as creators would tend to gravitate to the platform with the largest audience. Even YouTube, which is owned by Google, had to alter its video game streaming ambitions and close its separate YouTube Gaming app back in 2019 due to lack of popularity. YouTube Gaming still exists -- it's just been folded into the regular YouTube app.
It's the first time since the shutdown of Microsoft-owned Mixer in 2020 that Twitch is seeing some competition, meaning new streamers have a choice outside of Twitch and YouTube.
While a new platform means less competition for eyeballs, it also means a smaller overall audience. By the end of May, Kick reached 5 million accounts on the platform and ballooned to 12 million by early July -- a strong number considering the platform launched earlier this year. However, Twitch is far more mature by comparison, with 140 million active users.
Some top Twitch streamers have moral qualms about streaming on Kick as the company is being bankrolled by crypto-gambling site Stake. Still, generous financial incentives might outweigh the smaller potential audience. But it's also worth considering the graveyard of failed streaming services, of which Kick could become a part of. So this raises the question: is streaming on Kick worth it? Here are some of the top questions to consider.
(I reached out to both Twitch and Kick while writing this story. Twitch declined to comment. Kick never responded to a request for comment.)
Will you make more money on Kick than on Twitch?
The streaming game is a tough business. 8.13 million channels went live at least once between April and June of this year, according to Streams Charts, a streaming analytics company. Of those 8 million-plus channels, 80% of the estimated 5.37 billion hours watched went to the top 0.3% of channels. It's no surprise that many stream for years without building a significant -- or any -- following. Not only that, It can be an exhausting process to go live for hours a week with little to show for it.
Even then, starting off on Twitch doesn't mean you'll instantly be granted a subscribe button. You need to become a Twitch Affiliate, which means broadcasting 500 minutes in the last 30 days (over seven unique days) with an average of three concurrent viewers and at least 50 followers.
On Twitch, with a 50/50 revenue split, each $5 sub will grant you a $2.50 share, not accounting for bank fees or taxes. With 10 subscribers, you're looking at $25 per month.
Between the months of April and June, 82,850 channels with subscribe buttons went live on Twitch, bringing in an estimated $100.4 million, according to Streams Charts. This estimate is looking at the best case scenario, not considering lower subscription pricing in certain regions. This figure already takes into account the 50/50 split. Still, the top 1,000 channels accumulated 33.44% of revenue with the top 12,585 taking in 80%. Really, for live streaming to be lucrative, you have to be in the upper percentiles on Twitch.
"The vast majority of streamers who are making the jump to Kick, either full time or partially, like myself, are doing it because they feel like they are getting a fair and equitable split of the revenue generated by subscriptions," said Katie Bedford, an esports host and commentator who also streams.
Over on Kick, you can take home $4.75 for every $5 subscription, meaning 10 subscribers will net you $47.50 per month. Becoming an affiliate on Kick has slightly different requirements, requiring you to have streamed only 300 minutes and attained 75 or more followers. Kick is still in beta and doesn't have an ad revenue split at the moment.
For some small and mid-tier streamers, the revenue split on Kick could make streaming workable, Bedford said.
It's also worth noting that subscriptions are only one way streamers make money. Donations, tips and sponsors can help fill in income gaps that subscriptions alone can't fill.
What is the audience like on Kick?
Considering Kick launched in January, expect viewers that are more in tune to online spaces. This audience will tend to be less casual, meaning there won't be as much of a need to cater toward a larger pool of viewers.
"Twitch does a really good job in making sure that it is friendly for both brands and advertisers," said Zachary Diaz, chief strategy officer at OTK Media, an influencer marketing agency. Diaz also worked on the partnerships team at Twitch for over six years.
Twitch tends to be more family friendly, going so far as to introduce additional mature-rated tags last month. Kick, on the other hand, is willing to lean into more adult themes, prominently featuring categories like Pools Hot Tubs & Bikinis and Slots & Casino on the front page, whereas Twitch pushes the former category farther down. Last year, Twitch outright banned the streaming of gambling sites that were unlicensed in the US, which included Stake.
While Twitch has a long list of community guidelines, some of which are inconsistently followed, Kick co-founder Ed Craven said the platform has two staunch rules: no pornography and no hate speech. Of course, Kick's terms of service has a long list of prohibitions, including impersonating others, making threats, showing self-harm and engaging in libelous speech.
So if you're wanting to attract a larger general audience, then Twitch or YouTube might be better bets, even though competition will be higher. But if you're willing to lean into more niche or core groups, then Kick, even with its lower user base, might be worth streaming on. For Diaz, he recommends going on to Kick and assessing the top streamers to see what audiences they're building.
"Who are the popular creators there, which communities tend to get elevated to the top?" Diaz said. "And then sort of try to imagine, 'could I see myself sharing an audience with this creator with this community?'"
Will Kick survive?
Mixer, the game streaming service launched by Microsoft in 2016, lasted only four years before getting the ax. And this is Microsoft, a company that currently has a $2.6 trillion valuation. While Mixer was the highest profile failure, others too have been unable to make the business model work, such as Smashcast and Plays.tv.
"Shroud, for example, left Twitch for Mixer when he had 29,000 average viewers and 6 million hours watched and returned a year later to Twitch and attracted 57,000 average viewers and 7.7 million hours watched," said Gil Hirsch, CEO and co-founder of StreamElements, a leading creator tools and sponsorships platform. He added that there's generally a drop in viewers when creators switch to a smaller platform, but "it doesn't always make a significant impact on their career."
If you do start your livestreaming career on Kick, know that it comes with the risk of the service possibly folding. The livestreaming business is costly to maintain. Even Twitch, with its Amazon backing, still isn't profitable.
So, if Kick does fail, it'll mean transitioning all your viewers over to Twitch or some other platform. It'll be important to develop and nurture your audience on other platforms like Discord so your most hardcore viewers come with you during the transition. But there's a decent chance that your more casual viewers might be lost during the switch.
Whether Kick can maintain its revenue split and still turn a profit remains to be seen.
Can you stream on both Twitch and Kick?
Streaming simultaneously on multiple platforms, also known as simulcasting, is one way to expand your audience. There are restrictions, however.
Twitch is trying to get ahead of streamers simulcasting by putting specific rules in place. Those who sign on to Twitch's Partner Program, which is the next level up from Affiliate, can't simulcast on competing "horizontal" platforms such as YouTube Gaming, Facebook or Kick. Recently, that was expanded to include all Twitch streamers, regardless of partnership status, unless they have "advance written permission from Twitch." However, you can simulcast on mobile platforms like TikTok or Instagram Live.
Of course, juggling a stream on two platforms has its own challenges, and making sure to engage with audiences on both can be difficult.
Before the rule change, some streamers had opted to start a stream on Twitch and ask their viewers to join them on Kick about halfway through their session.
"Most of my viewers actually transitioned over to Kick with me," Bedford said. "I might lose a few, but I found, pleasantly enough, that most people were retained in the jump."
Bedford doesn't ask her viewers to jump over to Kick as much anymore, but it's still a viable strategy.
"Historically speaking, bringing streamers over usually happens a lot faster than viewers, so you definitely have to give Kick time before deciding if it is an alternative or actual rival," Hirsch said.
Both Bedford and Hirsch said it's important to create content on short-form platforms like TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels as a way to build an audience across the internet. Partnering up with other creators on streams is also a great way to cross-promote.
Why some are uncomfortable with Kick
Top streamer Imane "Pokimane" Anys made headlines last month when she said she wouldn't stream on Kick, not even for $10 million, as doing so would "compromise morals and ethics."
This is because Kick is directly tied to Stake.com, a crypto-gambling website.
There was a period of time around 2018 when gambling streams were taking off on Twitch. Considering video game streaming attracts younger audiences, there was concern that the abundance of gambling on Twitch was turning kids on to online gambling.
Some streamers were also making sponsorship deals with gambling sites, where the sites would give them large amounts of money to gamble with. These sponsorship deals were allegedly lucrative, with Tyler Faraz "Trainwreck" Niknam claiming he made $360 million in sponsorships. And Lengyel saying he'd wagered over $500 million in crypto-gambling while on Twitch. However, it's uncertain if his claimed total earnings also included money won or lost while gambling.
Both Niknam and Lengyel now stream on Kick. When Niknam joined Kick, he was made a non-owner advisor.
While some might be uncomfortable with Kick's financial backing, that doesn't mean you shouldn't stream there. Most likely, the audience you create won't be mired in this specific drama. Ultimately, choose the platform that you feel will be best for you and your intended audience.