YouTube vs. Twitch: The Streaming War Continues
Updated: April 08,2022
In 2014, Amazon acquired Twitch for $970 million. Even at the time, Twitch was known as the live-streaming counterpart to YouTube, and the impact it had on the streaming world was tremendous. For years afterwards, Twitch has continued to hold top spot.
YouTube joined the live-streaming fray in 2015 to carve a piece of the lucrative market out for itself. Even though YouTube is now a household name and there’s a huge number of YouTube users, in the six years since it has failed to beat Twitch at its own game.
Now, in 2021, when it comes to YouTube vs Twitch, we have to decide which is the king of streaming platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions in daily life, but the streaming world has remained unaffected. Or, to be more accurate, it has thrived, with the number of viewers and streamers stronger than ever.
If you’re an up-and-coming streamer or an avid viewer, you might be wondering which of these two platforms will be the best choice for you. Get your webcam ready and turn your best gaming speakers up to full blast; we’re about to answer this question and more!
Designed To Attract Attention
Both YouTube and Twitch have a well-designed interface that focuses on streamers’ visibility and aims to create a comfortable experience for viewers. They’re also both straightforward and easy to use. But under the hood, deciding whether to stream on YouTube or Twitch reveals fundamental differences in how these two sites operate.
Twitch has a clear and eye-catching UI that puts recommended live-streaming channels, options, and category browsing on the left side of the screen. The stream occupies most of the UI. The “Follow” and “Subscribe” options are at the bottom of the interface, along with the channel’s name and the number of viewers.
The biggest problem Twitch has is its lack of rewinding features and customizable thumbnails, as well as the fact that it puts the most watched streamer base at the forefront of every streaming category. You cannot pause or rewind a Twitch livestream until it ends, since Twitch lacks these DVR features, including automatically saving your streams.
If you’re a new streamer on Twitch vs YouTube, things don’t seem encouraging at first. Twitch displays those live streamers with the most views at the top of the list in every category, making it very difficult for small streamers to increase their visibility. There’s also a recommended list in each category that the learning AI controls.
There are many variables in the equation that decides which stream the AI will put in the recommended category. This includes how much viewers actively participate during a live stream, which makes watching it more interesting. The other known variant is time. The AI will always favor ongoing streams instead of those that are about to finish. Some of the changes to the recommendation process are recent, so only time will tell how they will affect streaming on Twitch vs YouTube.
One more thing to mention is that Twitch selects video thumbnails, and the streaming community has no say in this matter. As a result, most thumbnails tend to blend into one another and look the same across the board.
YouTube’s interface is a bit more crowded with surrounding options, including the live chat box and stream recommendations. Still, like Twitch, its UI is reasonably easy to use. Differences start with the pause and rewind options, which are available for all YouTube live content. This is fantastic for viewers who miss the beginning of a stream.
Two other things that give YouTube a slight edge in the YouTube live vs Twitch battle are the ability to customize thumbnails and the recommendation algorithm. On YouTube, if you have a verified account, you can custom-make thumbnails on your saved videos.
The recommendation algorithm on YouTube takes into account what you watch. You can create high-quality standard videos that will attract new viewers to follow you during your live streams. So if you have a small number of subscribers and standard videos, YouTube’s algorithm is more likely to recommend your stream than Twitch’s is.
Dos and Don’ts When Streaming
When Twitch introduced IRL stream categories, they quickly gained a large following, which boosted Twitch’s overall popularity. Consequently, if we’re comparing streaming restrictions on Twitch vs YouTube, we can see that Twitch implements much stricter rules.
On Twitch, it’s much easier to get temporarily banned, usually for anywhere from 24 hours to a couple of weeks if it’s a first or second offense. Of course, that ban could also be permanent. The potential reasons for a permanent ban can be many and, in some cases, are head-scratching. If you use a channel name that Twitch considers inappropriate, express your dislike of famous Twitch streamers or receive inappropriate presents from viewers, you could get banned permanently. And these are only some of the reasons.
When it comes to rules on YouTube vs Twitch, YouTube takes a more lax approach to enforcing rules and bans. There’s a “three-strike” system for the majority of rule violations. The worst it’s likely to get is for a stream or a video to be demonetized or receive a copyright strike.
Twitch has more robust moderation options for streamers, especially regarding interactive live chats. Viewers also get symbolic prizes for subscribing to a channel on the other side of the coin, which is great for keeping them engaged.
YouTube has very few additional moderator and audience engagement options. While we gave YouTube a slight edge in terms of UI and customization, Twitch balances the scale back with these features.
Getting Through to Your Audience
Suppose you’re assessing your prospects for channel growth with Twitch or YouTube streaming. In that case, both platforms have their distinct advantages and drawbacks. For starters, Twitch has a far bigger audience of gaming and IRL streaming enthusiasts than YouTube. It has more than three million streamers and 15 million viewers every month. This is particularly evident when The International starts on Twitch and viewer numbers consistently break new records. It also means the competition amongst streamers on Twitch gaming is massive.
When you announce that your live stream will begin shortly, Twitch will only notify your viewers via email notifications. YouTube, on the other hand, alerts your subscribers via both email and subscription feeds when they’re on YouTube. As we’ve learnt from the pandemic, the chances are pretty high that they’ll be online.
Because of that, YouTube takes another win in the YouTube live stream vs Twitch comparison. You have the option of naturally improving your visibility by publishing first smaller videos that revolve around the game you will stream and the date of YouTube streaming. If you regularly publish videos and streams that your viewers find informative or entertaining, YouTube’s algorithm will deem you more reliable. In turn, this will help your content rank higher in its user search and recommended calculations.
Gaining an audience and growing your streaming channel takes time, and time is money, so it’s only fair that you get paid for your hard work. With the gaming industry reaping outstanding earnings in the last year, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about expanding on streaming sites.
When talking about YouTube vs Twitch money programs, both streaming platforms have plenty to offer. With YouTube, streamers need to have over 400 hours of watch time and 1,000 subscribers or more to start monetizing via the YouTube Partner program. At that point, you have several ways to earn money.
Super Chat is similar to donations on Twitch, except that YouTube takes a whopping 30% cut. In contrast, Twitch takes nothing for standard donations, unless we’re talking about Bits.
The flipside is that YouTube ads generally pay more than ads on Twitch. They play both before the live stream starts and during streaming. YouTube ads pay roughly $18 per 1,000 seen ads or $3 to $5 per 1,000 views on a video.
Now we need to factor in subscribers for YouTube monetization vs Twitch payment. Members are similar to subscribers on Twitch, and YouTube takes 30% for every member. This is a minor cut compared to Twitch subscribers. But first, you have to have more than 30,000 subscribers to qualify for channel membership and be eligible for the YouTube Partner program.
Gaming channels need to have 1,000 subscribers or more. In return, YouTube pays out 70% of membership fees. It also gives channel owners the ability to establish different membership levels and pricing. The problem with this is that most YouTube users aren’t aware that membership levels exist at all.
So, Twitch vs YouTube: which is more profitable? Well, Twitch offers more options for stream monetization than YouTube. To start earning, you need to be a Twitch affiliate streamer, and that’s significantly easier than on YouTube: simply run 500 minutes broadcast over seven days with an average of three viewers, and have at least 500 followers. Like YouTube, Twitch has ads that run before and during streaming. The money you get from ads varies, but it’s usually between $0.25 and $1.50 per 1,000 views.
How much does Twitch take from subs? Well, standard donations include PayPal, among other payment options, and the best thing is that Twitch takes 0% from any stream donation. But there is more to the Twitch donation vs YouTube donation debate. There are also Bits, a form of donations directly from viewers. In this case, Twitch takes 29% of every Bit transaction, both when viewers donate Bits to streamers and when streamers exchange Bits for a standard currency.
Twitch also takes 50% of the money subscribers pay streamers, which leaves streamers with just $2.50 monthly for every subscription. However, when you consider that popular streamers have thousands of subscribers, there’s plenty of money to be earned. Finally, Twitch has an option for merchandising during a stream using extensions, so it doesn’t affect viewers’ enjoyment.
So, after all we’ve written, who offers the best payout: Twitch vs YouTube? Our verdict is that you’re more likely to earn money as a small streamer on YouTube thanks to its recommendation algorithm, which improves your channel’s visibility. But in the long run, Twitch offers robust options for earning money, so when you get a big enough subscriber base, you’ll potentially earn a lot there.
The Future of Streaming Giants
Both streaming platforms have a bright future ahead of them and plenty to offer both new and established streamers. The best thing is that if you’re a new streamer, you don’t need to worry too much about the Twitch vs YouTube discussion. You can stream on Twitch and YouTube concurrently, then decide later on which one you want to persist with in the long run.
Once you start making money on one or both platforms, you’ll be able to decide which one works best for you. Whatever you end up deciding, we wish you all the best as you turn your gaming passion into a career.
Frequently Asked Questions
YouTube has a more lucrative ad revenue system for streaming, but Twitch has more stream monetization options, which gives it an edge for established streamers.
It’s reasonable to ask: Should I stream on Twitch or YouTube? Our suggestion is to try streaming on both platforms until you gain Partner status with either Twitch or YouTube. If you want to focus specifically on game streaming, Twitch has a more dedicated gaming viewer base.
The rules are not clear-cut on this matter, and there’s no rule that forbids watching YouTube on Twitch. But it’s generally recommended not to watch YouTube on Twitch due to the high possible DMCA strikes. If you still want to do it, be sure to credit the original creator, and double-check videos that you plan on playing during a stream.
We’ve mentioned this in our article on YouTube vs Twitch. Still, due to the huge volume of streamers on Twitch and the recommendation algorithm that usually favors the most watched streams, it’s harder to grow on Twitch than on YouTube. However, if you find your viewer base, being on Twitch can be very lucrative in the long run.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.