In the immortal words of Sun Tzu: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.” In the vast expanse of the digital universe, where anarchy seems to reign supreme, these words resonate like a clarion call.
We are caught in the swirling vortex of the streaming wars, a cataclysmic clash of titans and underdogs, waged on the battlefield of viewer engagement and revenue shares.
Inspired by the critically acclaimed episode of South Park, Streaming Wars, I ask you – is this the dawn of a new era or merely the harbinger of digital annihilation?
Let’s set the stage with the latest gladiator to enter the arena – Kick. A new streaming platform that is as audacious as its name suggests.
But what does Kick’s emergence mean for the once peaceful kingdom of Twitch? Let’s arm ourselves with facts and dissect this battle for supremacy.
The streaming wars
For those familiar with that South Park episode, the uncanny parallels between fiction and reality are as striking as they are humorous.
In the episode, we witness an outrageous exaggeration of our favourite characters embroiled in the melee of streaming platforms, each vying for the viewer’s attention.
The episode astutely dissects the intricacies of the streaming industry, leaving the audience to contemplate the absurdities and conflicts inherent in this digital frontier.
Drawing from the South Park allegory, it isn’t hard to see Twitch as the established yet complacent giant, akin to the likes of Netflix or Hulu.
Twitch’s dominance in the streaming market is as unchallenged as the major players in the South Park episode.
On the other hand, Kick, the audacious newcomer, mirrors the guile and boldness of the fictional upstarts, represented by platforms like Disney+ and Apple TV.
Kick, with its disruptive business model and daring tactics, embodies the maverick spirit that is often the catalyst for industry shake-ups.
As we dive deeper into this modern-day fable, let us not lose sight of the critical question posed by the South Park episode: in the grand scheme of the streaming wars, is the viewer truly the king, or merely a pawn caught in the crossfire?
The answer, as we navigate the tumultuous tides of the Twitch vs. Kick saga, could very well determine the future of the digital landscape.
A new challenger approaches: Kick vs. Twitch
Streaming, for years, has been a monopoly lorded over by Twitch. The king sat comfortably on his throne, offering a modest 50/50 revenue split to his loyal subjects.
But the arrival of Kick, a scrappy underdog, has sent tremors through the kingdom. Armed with an unprecedented 95/5 revenue split in favour of streamers, Kick is a formidable adversary.
But is this a mere tempest in a teacup, or are we witnessing a seismic shift in the power dynamics of the streaming universe?
Dual allegiances: The Twitch-Kick dilemma
Is simulcasting on Twitch and Kick the secret strategy to emerge victorious in these streaming wars?
While Twitch fortifies its walls with restrictions for its Partner Program members, Kick opens its gates wide, welcoming all with open arms.
For seasoned warriors of the streaming world, this choice is far from straightforward. It demands careful evaluation of objectives, audience preferences, and long-term survival strategies.
In a high-stakes move, Kick has signed a whopping $100m contract with popular streamer xQc. This is akin to the mega-deals seen in elite football, such as Lionel Messi’s contract with PSG.
The battle of the audiences: niche or mainstream?
Understanding the demographics of these platforms is akin to unraveling the strategies of warring factions.
Twitch commands a vast army, boasting of millions of dedicated users. Kick, on the other hand, caters to a more mature audience, a niche group that often feels marginalised on mainstream platforms.
Can Kick exploit this gap and solidify its position, or will it crumble under the might of Twitch’s numbers?
Kick, although fostering impressive growth rates, remains leagues away from Twitch’s massive user base.
According to recent stats from June 2023, Twitch continues to dominate the streaming sector with the most-watched channels amassing an impressive 17.99 million hours watched. This figure is an astonishing 130% more than Twitch’s nearest competitor.
Moreover, Twitch streamers continue to dominate rankings, with well-established personalities such as tarik and xQc, even though the latter migrated to Kick mid-month, bringing in significant viewership.
Despite Kick’s promising ascent, it currently lacks the scale of Twitch’s established, loyal audience.
Furthermore, the departure of prominent streamers like xQc and Amouranth from Twitch to Kick, while impactful, has not significantly dented Twitch’s dominance.
Redefining the rules: Kick’s disruptive influence
Kick’s novel approach to streaming, its audacious contract dealings, and ethically questionable associations are not only creating shockwaves in the industry but also redefining the rules of engagement in the streaming wars.
This audacious newcomer is a testament to the ever-evolving dynamics of this battlefield. But with such disruptive tactics, does Kick set a dangerous precedent, or does it merely push boundaries to usher in a new era of digital innovation?
We’ll need to brace ourselves as we watch this saga unfold.
Dmitry Belianin is an experienced marketing strategist and leader in the sports betting industry. He has over 15 years of experience in marketing and gaming and a proven record in building global teams, growing profits, and implementing high-growth marketing, digital, and product development strategies within the biggest gaming companies.
Stake co-founder Ed Craven has denied the online casino giant self-funded the gambling activity of its biggest streamers and influencers.
The crypto disruptor – which counts Canadian rapper Drake as an A-list brand ambassador – faced mounting accusations before being banned from Twitch that it lined the pockets of its collaborators as a viral marketing strategy to encourage big stakes and even bigger wins.
Craven, who has since gone on to launch fast-growing Twitch rival Kick, rejected those accusations in a live video interview with YouTube channel Gamer Update on 24 June.
A bad example
“There was a lot of speculation around the money side and I completely understand that because there was incredible amounts being bet at any given moment,” said Craven.
For example, Drake joined Stake in December 2021 under the alias DeepPockets6. He is understood to have gambled more than £800m in cryptocurrency in just two months.
The artist bet a whopping £1.67m on Israel Adesanya to beat Alex Pereira in a UFC 281 title fight and lost. He also bet £837k on Argentina to win the World Cup but lost on a technicality after Lionel Messi’s side triumphed after normal time and on penalties.
“That is something that personally, I don’t believe was good for anybody,” said Craven in response to the amount of money tabled by Stake’s high-profile partners.
“I don’t condone that at all. I think that was something which attracted unneeded attention,” he added.
Authenticity is key
Despite the outrageous sums of money being wagered, Craven has maintained that Drake and his fellow Stake ambassadors were betting out of their own wallets.
“In terms of the legitimacy and the authenticity of the gambling, that is something that of course we were very, very serious about,” he said.
“This comes back to our marketing strategy. If you have an authentic use of the product, then that is what leads to it being a successful campaign.
“Using gambling as an example, having real money is the most important aspect of having an authentic experience.
“To address the speculation, I’m not going to confirm that – I will harshly deny the fact that those rumours are true.
“We wanted to keep everything extremely above board in all areas and there have been no revelations around that otherwise. I think it has always been speculation,” he added.
Stake was one of four high-profile casino operators banned from Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch in 2022.
At the time, Twitch said it would prohibit streams and the sharing of links or referral codes to gambling sites and games that are not licensed in the US or other jurisdictions that provide “sufficient” consumer protection.
Twitch CEO Dan Clancy has since gone on record to confirm that stance, suggesting the company has a problem with sites that are “unregulated”.
Stake is licensed for online gambling by Curaçao, which is currently in the process of bringing its own gambling legislation closer in line with international standards.
While answering community-posed questions on the live stream, Craven took issue with the “unregulated” definition.
“There was controversy that came out of the gambling side of things, and there still is. There is still gambling on Twitch, there’s gambling on Kick, and there’s gambling on YouTube,” he said.
“There’s gambling on all social media platforms and I think people still question a lot of what goes on.
“I do think there are some very unfair comments, though, in regard to what is defined as acceptable versus unacceptable. I’ve heard some ideas around whether it’s regulated or unregulated,” he added.
M&A on the cards
Craven then revealed that Stake could be set to enter the locally licensed online gambling space by completing a “large” acquisition for an undisclosed company in the regulated US market.
The move, he said, would give Twitch bosses a major decision to make over whether to reintegrate Stake to the platform based on their own gambling terms and conditions.
“We look forward to hopefully being able to work back on Twitch under their guidelines,” said Craven.
“But I’m not sure whether they’re going to follow through with this whole concept of regulated versus unregulated once we meet their regulations.”
Finnish influencer and streamer Lauri Kangas, also known as Lateksituppi, has been sentenced to a 50-day suspended prison term after admitting to promoting gambling websites outside the Veikkaus monopoly.
The Itä-Uusimaa district court determined that Kangas had earned €51,300 from these activities and ordered him to repay the same amount as a penalty to the Finnish state.
The court established that between 1 May 2020 and 18 May 2021, Kangas advertised several gambling companies and provided links to their websites under the alias “Lateksituppi” on various social media platforms.
Additionally, he showcased different instant casino games on platforms such as Twitch, Snapchat and YouTube.
The court ruled that these games were not operated by monopoly holder Veikkaus Oy, making Kangas’ marketing a violation of the Finnish Lottery Act.
The court also determined that Kangas conducted his marketing activities in the Finnish language, specifically targeting Finnish individuals or user accounts in Finnish.
Finland remains the sole EU member state that maintains an exclusive online gambling monopoly model.
While discussions are ongoing to move to a licensing model, a flurry of court cases are taking place in Finland. Most recently, Betsson successfully appealed a marketing prohibition order in Finland.
Screenshots seen by iGaming NEXT from Kangas’ social media accounts, featuring promotions for websites like LeoVegas, Kindred-owned Unibet, Rootz-operated Wildz Casino and several others, were submitted as evidence.
iGaming NEXT has reached out to the companies in question for comment.
Although Kangas admitted to the crime, he argued that he received bonus money from the operators and these bonuses should not be considered as criminal proceeds.
However, the court disagreed with this claim.
Kangas stated that he had received bonuses for a total of 53 weeks, averaging €150 per week, amounting to €7,950 in total.
The court’s ruling is not final and can be appealed to the Court of Appeal or to the Supreme Court.
Finnish gambling experts say that the case served “as a good reminder how illegal gambling advertising exposes to criminal liability.”
iGaming NEXT is proud to announce the launch of its new state-of-the-art podcast studio in Malta.
The studio was created in collaboration with Yolo Investments, which enabled the build by supporting the company on this initiative.
The studio, which is equipped with the latest audio and video technology, will be used to produce high-quality podcasts for the iGaming industry.
In addition to producing its own in-house podcasts, the studio will also be available to rent for external partners to work on their own media productions.
The studio is suitable for a wide range of media projects, including podcasts, webinars and video interviews.
The launch of the podcast studio is a significant milestone for iGaming NEXT, as it allows the company to further expand its reach and influence in the iGaming industry.
The studio will enable iGaming NEXT to produce even more engaging and informative content for its listeners, while also providing a valuable resource for its partners.
“We are extremely excited to launch our new podcast studio,” said iGaming NEXT MD and co-founder Pierre Lindh.
“We believe it will play a crucial role in our efforts to provide top-quality content for the iGaming industry and beyond.
“We are also thrilled to be able to offer the studio to our partners as a resource for their own media projects,” he added.
The iGaming NEXT Podcast is brought to you by Pragmatic Solutions.
If you would like to learn more about the iGaming NEXT podcast studio and our rent rates, please contact email@example.com.
Twitch has pledged to prohibit live streams of high profile gambling sites from next month, sending shockwaves through the sector and leaving many unanswered questions.
Live gambling streams are a mega money business on the Amazon-owned streaming platform.
Some of its most popular content creators live stream for tens of hours a day while playing slots and casino games on Curacao-licensed sites including Stake.com and Roobet.
Those sites, which are not licensed in the US or subject to the same levels of consumer protection standards, will now be banned from the platform on 18 October 2022, according to an official statement posted to the Twitch Twitter account at 11pm on 20 September.
An update on gambling on Twitch. pic.twitter.com/lckNTY9Edo
— Twitch (@Twitch) September 20, 2022
The tweet has since gone viral, earning 37,000 retweets at the time of writing.
Gambling on Twitch has inspired some major online controversies in recent times, despite being promoted by high profile celebrity ambassadors and influential content creators.
For example, Canadian rap star Drake – arguably the most successful commercial musician of the last decade – regularly streams live while placing bets with cryptocasino operator Stake.com, which has never been licensed in Canada or the US.
Twitch’s most watched streamer of the last two years is Canadian personality Félix “xQc” Lengyel. In 2021, his streams amassed nearly 275 million hours of views.
xQc regularly goes live with gambling streams. He places huge wagers, often more than $100,000 per spin.
There are transparency issues with gambling streams like this.
Often, the casino operator will fund the streamers so they aren’t gambling with their own money. This makes them more likely to adopt risky playing behaviours or bet more than they can afford. But this is not always obvious or apparent to their audience.
Speaking of audience, age-gaiting is another major concern when it comes to Twitch and gambling. According to Twitch, the average age of a user is 21, with an estimated 20% of global users aged between 13- and 17-years-old – and therefore too young to gamble.
The most recent controversy – and indeed the one that appears to have broken the camel’s back – unravelled earlier this week and centred around Manchester-based content creator ItsSliker.
It transpired that ItsSliker had borrowed money from other popular Twitch streamers to fund his gambling addiction and never managed to pay them back.
He asked for the money, often under false pretences, and gambled it away on online casino games.
When the news came to light, some of the most influential personalities on Twitch – including Pokimane, Mizkif, and Devin Nas – threatened to go on strike and stop uploading videos until gambling sponsorship was banned on the platform.
They have been heard loud and clear, according to the latest statement from Twitch, which name-checked high profile sites such as Stake.com, Roobet and Duelbits, among others.
ItsSliker: “I’m going to fix my addiction. I don’t need to explain how big it is. It has made me into an ill person. It has made me into an evil person.”
ItsSliker has been offline since his last upload two days ago, which was filmed before Twitch made its move to ban certain gambling sites.
“I want to say I’m going to go to rehab. I’m going to fix my addiction,” said ItsSliker on camera. “I don’t need to explain how big a thing it is. It has made me into an ill person. It has made me into an evil person.”
Several leading streamers, including the aforementioned xQc, have now vowed to pay off the people he scammed.
As the news of the ban filtered through last night, casino streamer Roshtein was in the middle of a live stream while playing slots on Stake.com.
Roshtein boasts more than 1.1 million followers on Twitch. As the live chat informed him of the message from Twitch, he sat silent for the most part with his head in his hands. He repeatedly said, “oh my god”, before asking: “What does that mean for us?”
He then suggested YouTube as an alternative streaming platform.
Streamers will understandably be looking for alternatives from 18 October. It is a major source of income to most, and there is also insane demand for live slots streams.
One option could see streamers come together to create their own casino gambling platform. This would allow them to circumvent the rules and regulations as it would most likely be run by an entity entirely separate to Amazon or Google.
Watch this space.
The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) has warned three of the country’s 12 licence holders for planning to publish marketing material targeted at minors and in breach of regulations.
Three operators – which have not been named by the regulator – were on the receiving end of the KSA’s rebuke for intending to advertise their services on platforms primarily aimed at children or young adults.
According to the regulator, the licensees had planned to target YouTube channel TeenTock, family TV programme MarbleMania and the Donald Duck website.
The Dutch State Lottery was hit with a cease-and-desist notice for advertising on the Netherlands-facing Donald Duck website back in 2017.
The latest firms in breach received an official warning and were instructed to immediately adjust their advertising policies or risk further enforcement action from the KSA.
The protection of vulnerable groups such as minors, young adults and at-risk gamblers has been a priority area for the KSA since the regulated market went live in October 2021.
These groups are adjudged to be especially sensitive to gambling addiction and are not permitted to see gambling advertising as a result, as reflected by the country’s gaming law.
The breaches were identified amid routine advertising policy checks conducted by the KSA over the last few months.
A further seven licensed operators were found to have deviated from the law, although the breaches were considered less serious. Nevertheless, they have also been ordered to take further precautions.
The regulator said: “The authority keeps a close eye on advertising by gambling providers and takes enforcement action where necessary.
“New providers can also look forward to such a treatment. Fines are not excluded [ruled out] if violations are found.”
Enforcement action may include a financial penalty or even licence suspension and revocation in extreme cases.
Belgium-based Casino de Spa was the latest operator to receive a licence in the country having gained valid certification on 2 February 2022, although it has not gone live yet.
Bet365, Tombola and GGPoker are among other international recipients, as is LiveScore Bet, although the latter has still not launched its services in the country.
In January, KSA chairman René Jansen urged operators to advertise carefully in the country’s newly regulated iGaming market because “political patience when it comes to this subject is very limited”.
Disney is recruiting a New York-based senior sports betting manager to work for its ESPN subsidiary.
The job description, posted 30 January, says the successful applicant will be responsible for the day-to-day partner management of betting and licensing deals for ESPN.
The individual will also be expected to act as the go-to project manager for existing and new partnerships while overseeing key external relationships with betting partners.
In November, Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek said the company was “aggressively pursuing” building a bigger presence in online sports betting via the ESPN brand.
“Given our reach and scale, we have the potential to partner with third parties in this space in a very meaningful way,” he said at the time.
“We do believe that sports betting is a very significant opportunity for the company and it is all driven by the consumer, particularly the younger consumer that will replenish the sports fans over time and their desire to have gambling as part of their sports experience.”
Last year, it was reported that ESPN was looking to cash in on its brand reach by exploring a multi-year $3bn licensing deal with the likes of DraftKings and Caesars Entertainment.
We have already seen regulated operators forgo their flagship brands in the US to launch in partnership with an established American media outlet. 888’s Sports Illustrated sportsbook and Carousel Group’s MaximBet are just two examples.
iGaming NEXT contacted Disney to ask if the new ESPN sports betting manager would be tasked with sub-licensing the brand out to a regulated gambling operator in the US.
Disney – via ESPN – declined to comment on this occasion.
Notably, the requirements for the senior sports betting manager role barely mention sports betting.
Basic qualifications include a minimum of seven years’ experience in either business strategy, business development, product or partnerships and experience of working in a fast-paced environment with changing requirements.
Meanwhile, experience with media, gaming and technology-oriented business models and industry leaders is listed as a preferred qualification, as is an understanding of the emerging areas of sports business, with esports and sports betting listed as examples.
It is worth pointing out that ESPN is already aligned with sports betting to some extent.
The media giant has launched a dedicated sports wagering YouTube channel that boasts more than 10,000 subscribers and features content from its televised sports betting programme Daily Wager.
It has also gone live with betting-focused linear broadcasts on sports events, including basketball games in partnership with the NBA, and struck a sports betting programming partnership with Caesars back in 2019.
The majority of deals to date for ESPN have been focused on content. It is unclear at this point whether ESPN would consider a direct-to-consumer sports betting business.
Chapek insisted last year that ESPN branching out into sports betting would not diminish the brand reputation of Disney, which is primarily aimed at those under the age of 21, and that the company had engaged in expansive market research to that effect.
Here is what the Disney careers website has to say about ESPN and sports betting:
“The ESPN sports betting and fantasy team is responsible for managing and operationalising the ESPN sports betting and fantasy business.
“The team is also responsible for identifying, developing and executing new business opportunities that further enhance ESPN’s sports betting and fantasy content and product offerings.
“The team continually evaluates prospective partners in sports betting, as well as season-long and daily fantasy, that drive best in class fan experience and advance ESPN’s market leadership.”
See the full job ad here.