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TikTok rolls out livestreaming subscription service to compete with Twitch

TikTok has invested heavily in livestreaming content over the past two years. It has set its sights on competing with the Goliath of online livestreaming platforms, Twitch.tv, with the Thursday launch of their own new subscription option within their TikTok Live service.Associated Press

TikTok is taking a page — or many — from Twitch’s playbook. The wildly popular live video app, made famous with lip-synching music covers and dance moves, is launching a new subscription option for its TikTok Live service on Thursday, granting fans perks in exchange for a monthly fee to access their favorite creators’ content. Access will be restricted to select invited TikTok users as part of a beta launch, then rolled out to all eligible users in coming weeks. The monetization tool has powered video game streamers on Twitch for years and TikTok has taken note.

Twitch, owned by Amazon.com, Inc., launched in 2011 and vaulted to success with video games like League of Legends or Fortnite. It has since become the go-to app for all sorts of live streaming and its most popular content category now is “Just Chatting,” where streamers talk with hundreds or thousands of fans, who respond through a text chat. That kind of content is finding a new home on TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance Ltd. Live video is one of the fastest growing areas of social media, and competition between the two apps is getting increasingly cutthroat. TikTok has been investing heavily in livestreaming content over the past two years, and, since 2020, it has wooed about a dozen Twitch employees, including some to work on TikTok Live and serve as liaisons between the creators and the company. TikTok lists 173 open positions referencing “Live,” and 35 for “gaming,” according to its website. At the same time, Twitch has faced an exodus of executives amid a strategy shift over how to monetize its more than 1 million daily active streamers. TikTok is also spending heavily in gaming and is conducting tests to feature games on its platform, Reuters reported. Some of those games may be part of the TikTok Live experience, with streamers playing games together and combining their audiences. However, featuring games on the platform isn’t the same as fostering a culture and industry of gaming livestreamers as Twitch has done.

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Twitch declined to comment on TikTok’s new subscription service.

It’s hard for creators to ignore the pull of TikTok’s 1 billion monthly active users, and streaming on the platform is a low-effort way to increase their fanbase. Some Twitch streamers have simultaneously livestreamed themselves on TikTok as part of an effort to build their audiences across platforms. However, TikTok Live still lacks important quality-of-life features like robust live moderation and easily identifiable alerts about fan interactions. And while Twitch streamers use elaborate PC setups to boost stream performance, not all TikTok Live content creators have access to PC livestreaming.

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BBJess, who doesn’t share her full name publicly, had been posting dances and memes on TikTok since 2019. Lately, she has started streaming more on TikTok Live along with her peers from Twitch’s “Just Chatting” category.

“Gaming content is great to bring people in, but it’ll take interactive livestreamers to keep people spending money,” she said.

For now, Twitch is ahead on that front. Last month, BBJess said she received an e-mail from TikTok inviting her to be a part of TikTok Live’s beta program for subscriptions. Her most lucrative TikTok stream earned her $200 dollars for three hours of work. On Twitch, she says, she can earn $2,000 to $3,000 in that same period through subscription revenue and donations from fans on the platform. In the past, TikTok has been criticized by creators who feel the platform underpays them.

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“Once TikTok figures out how to directly help more of their creators monetize their content, you will definitely see creators investing additional time on the platform and maintaining a consistent presence there,” said Mike Lee, an esports agent at United Talent Agency.