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September 11

Is Kick A Serious Twitch Competitor?

Livestreaming, Twitch

Twitch is the reigning livestreaming king, but if you're even remotely tuned in to the livestreaming landscape, you've probably heard about Kick, too. The relatively new, relatively clandestine, and already fairly controversial livestreaming site has generated a lot of buzz in its less than year on the scene. 

Most major platforms have made some sort of jump into livestreaming, to mixed results. From YouTube and TikTok to Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, all the main platforms understand that live content plays a major role in social media consumption. 

But for the most part, these platforms are just trying to add livestreaming as another way to keep eyeballs on the platform and keep creators committed. While they're certainly competing with Twitch in this space, they're not trying to be a direct replacement so much as they're trying to keep users in their ecosystem. And open up new revenue streams for both streamers and the platform.

Kick, on the other hand, is all about livestreaming. And specifically all about being better at it than Twitch. Let's look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of Kick so far.

Where Did Kick Come From?

Kick seemed to burst on the scene from out of nowhere. The company was founded in late 2022 and launched in early 2023. It was probably in development since before then, though, since livestreaming takes a decent amount of infrastructure. Since then, plenty of names have been associated with the platform, but the question of ownership is still a bit hazy.

The co-founders of online gambling site Stake.com, Ed Crave and Bijan Tehrani, have been tied to the platform. A bit of digging from Dot Esports shows that Kick, while not owned by Stake itself, shares a lot of ownership ties with Stake.

Why does it matter? Well, Stake is an online gambling website that makes heavy use of cryptocurrency and made its Australian co-founder Ed Craven a billionaire at the age of 27. This will be a pretty big part of the "bad" and "ugly" sections when talking about Kick. 

It's important to note that, functionally, Kick looks an awful lot like Twitch. The streaming categories and organization are similar (with a few very important caveats), down to copying Twitch's nomenclature for categories like "Just Chatting." And the way streamers and viewers use the platform is very similar, too. Chat, emojis, gifting, subscriptions. It's pretty standard and pretty obviously a copy of Twitch.

The Good About Kick

Kick's biggest draw for the majority of streamers is the subscription fee split rate. The platform (still in beta) promises that streamers will earn 95 percent of the revenue from their subscriptions and only take 5 percent. This is a massive increase from the next biggest livestreaming platforms, Twitch and YouTube. 

Twitch offers a 50/50 split on subscription revenue for most streamers, with some rare offers of a 70/30 split up to $100,000 for top streamers. YouTube offers a 70/30 split to streamers. The fact that $50 in subscription revenue on Twitch is $95 on Kick is an undeniable plus on the platform. And you really can't fault any streamer who feels confident they can bring their viewers over given you'd nearly double your subscription income. 

The familiarity is also a plus. Since Kick really is trying to directly compete with Twitch, the fact that it mostly copied the platform makes it easier for viewers and streamers alike to make the switch, or at least stream on both with relatively little need to do extra work. 

One of the top streamers on the planet, Kaitlyn Siragusa (also known as Amouranth), told NBC News that she valued Kick's direct communication and openness with her. Siragusa told NBC, "I was the top female streamer on Twitch, but they never reached out with any recognition. On the other hand, Kick is open from the beginning and communicative. They are open to hearing suggestions. There are decision-makers available for creators to discuss about the platform’s future."

Also, it may be easier to gain discoverability on Kick, given it has just a fraction of the streamers Twitch and YouTube have right now. Also, if you're a gambling streamer, you can use Kick (more on this in the next section).

The Bad and Ugly About Kick

So why exactly is Kick so controversial? What had former Twitch executive DJWheat calling the platform a "sham" on Twitter a few days after its announcement? 

Well, it doesn't help that the platform has been pretty mum on things like ownership structure, investment, and origins. But beyond that, the real concern is related to content, moderation, and ethics.

Some of the first biggest streamers to move over to Kick included gambling streamer Trainwreckstv and controversial personalities xQc, and Adin Ross. The former two both got banned from various parts of Twitch for making racist, homophobic, and/or sexist remarks on stream. 

But Kick paid xQc (real name Felix Lengyel) $100 million in June 2023 to exclusively stream on the platform for two years. Yikes. Kick co-founder Ed Craven expressed some concerns over Adin Ross' homophobic comments and threats on stream, but the reality is doing anything shy of kicking him off the platform (which would be hard to do, considering Ross is reportedly tied to Kick in more ways than simply streaming) will only show people that this type of behavior is mostly tolerated. 

Meanwhile, Kick's direct ties to online gambling mean the platform has plenty to gain from encouraging streamers to livestream gambling, especially if they're doing it on Stake.com. The fact that livestreaming viewers skew younger makes this even more problematic, given gambling's connection to addictive behavior, particularly among young men (a problem that's on the rise). 

In other words, it's not hard to see why Kick is able to offer 95 percent of subscription revenue if its top streamers are promoting Stake, a billion dollar company. Positioning itself as a "fewer holds barred" streaming platform than Twitch and YouTube makes Kick ripe for bad apples. 

So Is Kick A Genuine Competitor To Twitch?

Herein lies the rub. It makes sense for streamers to want to be on a platform where they make more money for their efforts. For all of Twitch's developments, its insistence on a 50/50 subscription revenue split makes it a tough pill to swallow when other alternatives offer more. Even platforms like TikTok (which also takes about 50 percent of "gifts" from users to streamers) have built-in discoverability and auxiliary uses that make it compelling as a livestreaming go-to.

You can't necessarily fault content creators who are worried about being able to pay rent jumping to a platform that may have less moderation or ethical guardrails but offers more money. (You can certainly fault people signing nine-figure deals after they were banned from competitors for spouting hate, though).

The reality is, right now Kick's numbers are nowhere near Twitch's or YouTube's when it comes to viewership. According to StreamsCharts, Kick has about 590,000 total streamers. Twitch has nearly 16.5 million. YouTube has nearly 1.2 million. 

As of writing, there are a little more than 80,000 viewers on Kick, compared to 2.8 million on Twitch. The stats are equally lopsided for other categories. 

In other words, Kick is a much bigger competitor to Twitch in the blogosphere than it is in actuality. At least right now. But remember, Kick isn't even a year old. And it clearly has the coffers to go out and recruit streamers who attract eyeballs. 

Kick isn't the first competitor with major backing to take on Twitch. Remember Mixer? But it remains to be seen if Kick's tie to the always popular online gambling world will be enough to float the platform and have it survive the likely sea of controversial headlines coming its way.


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