From cat videos and product unboxings on YouTube to entire TV seasons on Netflix, the way we consume entertainment is rapidly changing. Right beside those megaton-sized streaming platforms is Twitch, another online media darling. Think of it as playing video games with a friend without ever being handed the controller. Maybe that sounds boring to you, but Twitch's 15 million daily active viewers and 2.2 million broadcasters disagree. If you want to nab a few of those 15 million viewers, Twitch makes it easy for you to start streaming your gameplay from just about anywhere.
Twitch is a streaming platform, but it's not a streaming platform like Netflix or Hulu. The video streams on Twitch are live feeds of people playing and commenting on video games. As the streamers play, viewers can not only watch along, but they can also comment and interact via live chat. Although gaming is ostensibly Twitch's bread and butter, Twitch's IRL section offers streams of just about anything "in real life."
Twitch is available via desktop browsers at Twitch.tv, on Android and iOS mobile platforms, for gaming consoles such as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox 360 and on streaming devices like Chromecast and FireTV. Twitch is free to use, but paying Amazon Prime members have exclusive access to Twitch Prime which sweetens the deal with discounts on games and free in-game items every month.
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How to Start a Twitch Stream
To start streaming from your PC, Mac or Linux computer, you need to download and install a broadcasting app. Twitch recommends software such as Bebo, Streamlabs OBS, XSplit Broadcaster or Open Broadcast Software.
After your broadcasting app is installed, log in to your account at Twitch.tv, go to your Dashboard, select a game from the "Playing" drop-down menu, and type in a title for your broadcast. From there, you use your broadcasting app, where the process varies.
With OBS, for example, you set Twitch as your streaming service, then head back to your Switch dashboard, go to "Stream Key," and copy the key that appears. Paste that key into the OBS "Stream Key" box, use the "Game Capture" option to start capturing your PC's screen, adjust the display, and select the "Start Streaming" option.
XSplit is a little simpler. This broadcasting software prompts you to log in with your Twitch account and set your stream properties. After that, it's just a matter of clicking "Add," "Game Capture," "Broadcast" and "Twitch" before you're live.
How to Stream From Consoles
Streaming to Twitch from consoles is a straightforward process for broadcasters. On PlayStation 4, press the "Share" button on your controller and choose Twitch from the menu that appears. Log in, and you're ready to go live.
On Xbox One, download the free Twitch app from the Xbox Store and log in to your Twitch account. Start playing the game you want to stream and select "Broadcast" from the main menu of the Twitch app to start streaming.
Can You Get Copyrighted on Twitch?
Because this form of entertainment is emerging, there's still plenty of legal ground to be explored regarding streaming and making revenue from streamed games. Game developers and publishers are adjusting their legal policies with each passing year. As of 2018, the only games Twitch prohibits streamers from broadcasting are those with an "Adults Only" rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, or those that contain hate speech, sex, nudity, gratuitous gore or extreme violence.
Streamers can be hit with copyright claims on other grounds, though, if they're not careful with their usage of original content. To avoid potential legal snafus, refrain from using copyrighted music in your stream. Twitch offers a royalty-free music library just for streamers.
If your stream consists entirely of playing a video game, the underlying content is owned and copyrighted by the game's developer or publisher, and fair use laws protect the use of copyrighted content in many circumstances that apply to streamers. Familiarize yourself with fair use laws, which protect your use of copyrighted material "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching ... scholarship or research" before you start monetizing your Twitch stream.
Do Twitch Streamers Get Paid?
Twitch has systems in place that allow creators to monetize their streams. In 2018, the platform's most popular streamer, Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, made an estimated income of $350,000 per month from Twitch subscriptions alone, according to Forbes.
Most prominently, the Twitch Partner Program allows streamers to run optional ads during their broadcasts. If creators opt in, they earn revenue from ad views and by gaining subscriptions from viewers, which allow fans to support channels and gain access to exclusive perks for a small monthly fee. The Affiliate Program – available only to those who meet certain streaming requirements, such as regularity of broadcasting and a minimum number of followers and viewers – has access to additional monetization perks.