What do NFL players have in common with Twitch partners?
I just got done watching the first preseason NFL game a bit ago. Since it’s just a preseason game with little consequence, you can sit back and reflect a bit. I always like to notice the guys who drop a pass or blow their coverage and make a mental note to check back later to see if they get sacked before the season even starts. Sometimes that’s all the difference in having a career and not having one.
But what do these millionaires getting sweaty for a couple of hours while scrambling after a little bunch of leather have in common with Twitch?
A lot of us have probably watched football and thought… “I could do that. They just got lucky with genetics. How come they get paid so much money? This is their job? To play games? I’m in the wrong profession. Stupid lucky jerks.”
Funny thing is, people tune into watch LIRIK and say the same thing. What people don’t really seem to grasp is what goes into a big stream. Or what the path to the top looks like. So let me illustrate in some terms today just how unlikely a successful full-time broadcaster is and how that compares to football.
What are the odds you’ll “make it big”?
Of course, it depends what you mean by “big”. I don’t just mean partnership with Twitch. I’ll define big as… able to support yourself, buy a house, start a family, buy health care, put aside some savings, and maybe retire from it if things continued as they are right now. That narrows it down quite a bit. Probably more than you realize.
Let’s look at some numbers. Twitch doesn’t publish financial information from streamers (and they shouldn’t) and I don’t have any inside info here, so we’re going to have to draw some educated guesses from a variety of sources:
In 2016, there were 2.2 million unique streamers1. That’s about double how many people played football in high school in the US that year, at 1,083,308 total2. So that’s our baseline groups. But how many football players made the leap up to college? How many broadcasters made it up to affiliate or partner?
The answer is easy for football: 6.8%. That’s how many were able to make the jump from HS to College football. There were 73,660 NCAA players in 20163. The field begins to narrow. And some of you now see where I’m going with this.
Twitch Affiliates weren’t a thing yet in 2016. But in 2016 there were 17,000+ partners. So roughly 0.77% of the total. Saying that less than 1% of broadcasters are partners illustrates how deep the competition is. We’ll circle back to that.
Prediction, but 6.8% of 2,200,000 is 149,600. I wonder how close that is to the actual number of Twitch Affiliates to mirror this football comparison. I’ll wait patiently for that TwitchCon stat to come out to see how far off I am. (StreamLabs estimates the number at ~50k currently)
But the real statistic is… Out of the 16,369 draft-eligible NCAA players in 2016, only 251 were drafted into the NFL. That’s 1.5% of the healthy, young, talented playerbase that actually became “successful” and “made it big” in the game of football. At least for a little while. Until they dropped that pass tonight.
Think about that for a second. Even if you were the star of your HS football team. Even if you went to college on a scholarship to play football. Even though you had all the resources the huge college programs had to offer and fans and regular viewers on prime television spots, you still have a 98.5% chance of not continuing on with the game the moment you leave college. Almost all of the college guys you watch in college football games will be doing something other than football in a year or two.
Out of the 17,000 partners4, how many of them do you think have “made it big”? How many of them are even still active weekly? Or have more than 100 viewers when they stream? Is it outrageous to think the comparison holds and that only roughly 250 partners are making the kind of money where they can buy houses, cars, pay for health insurance, save for retirement? How many are making six figures?
We may never get an exact source for some of the questions I’m asking. But some data just came out yesterday from StreamLabs about their tipping volume that could shed some light.
Overall the industry is growing, and rapidly. The number of channels generating $10,000+ grew 89% from 2015 to 20165. And Streamlabs, who had something like 78% marketshare, processed $80.2 MILLION to broadcasters in 2016. And they’re on track to process $100 million this year. Which sounds impressive. But let’s zoom in a bit because that pie splits a bunch of ways.
Of course, that doesn’t count paid promotions, ad revenue, subscription revenue, cheering revenue. That all adds up, for sure. But would it add up so much that we’d have more than 250 partners above the $100k annually number? I sincerely doubt it.
Recap and conclusion
So let’s just say the estimates are right and there are only 250 top-end, able to maybe retire someday, well-funded partners at the top of Twitch to mirror the 250 guys who will get drafted into the NFL this year from college. What does that mean for you?
- It means that the game of streaming is easy to start, hard to master. Anyone can toss around a football or flip on a stream. But it can be difficult to have a long-term career here.
- It means that you’ll have to have something to set you aside from every other streamer. That something could be… raw skill, pure luck, good connections, or (probably) a few years of head start paired with an intense work ethic that cut off personal relationships in the process
- Just because “anyone can do it” doesn’t mean anyone can do it well. Not everyone is naturally entertaining. Some people have to work at that side of things more than others.
- No one will do it just like you. It’s possible you’re a punter trying to play a linebacker position and failing miserably, but that’s just because you’re not built to compete with those bigger guys and you haven’t figured out your place yet.
- Don’t quit your day job. Or school for that matter. No, seriously. Partnership or affiliate is only the door to monetization not the end goal. A couple good months of early-partnership growth does not equal ditching everything and then getting bitter at your community when they don’t catch you after your ill-advised stage dive. You can quit your job after you have a few months worth of liveable extra income saved up, how about that. Most people try to go full-time too early and regret it. Don’t be that guy.
- By the way, don’t forget about things like taxes and insurance. You might have been used to an employer handling that before but you’re on your own now. By the time you add up the federal rate + state rate + self-employment tax rate of 15.3% which you’re now needing to track and pay yourself.. Your $100k earned might be more like $70k actual.
- Don’t envy the guys at the top of the food chart unless you’re willing to do what it takes to get where they are. That’ll mean no days off, no personal time, and possibly years of grinding for no real promise of anything working out. And you should have started 4 years ago. Plus all the fun things like depression, lack of social life, and financial instability along the way. Oh, and good luck because the market is supersaturated.
Am I discouraging you from even trying? Not my intention. People still rise to the top all the time. And if you enjoy streaming, you should do it. I just want you to have the taste of reality on what is separating you from the top of the charts and making this fun thing a career. As long as you have a realistic perspective, don’t quit the day job, and aren’t digging yourself into debt with equipment you can’t afford and keeping the right perspective, stream away. Honestly everyone should try it at least once.
And if you want some tough love from a guy who will give it to you straight, hit me up. But not on Sundays. Sundays are for football and contemplation.
Till next time,