How to Monetize Broadcasts for a Small Streamer
Streaming might be just another hobby that you picked up because of the lockdown, or it might be a long-cherished dream that you wanted to pursue to quit your day job. In either case, there will come a moment when you should ask yourself: “Is there something else besides fun and connection with my viewers that streaming can give me?” In other words, you will be wondering if it’s possible to monetize your streams.
Interestingly, despite popular claims that the streaming scene is so oversaturated that there are very little to no possibilities for making a buck, there are actually a handful of options to generate a steady income from streaming, even for small streamers with as little as 10 average viewers.
In this article, we will take a look at these opportunities and break down their terms and average earning figures so that you can estimate the potential outcomes before you start monetizing.
Ways to make money streaming if you’re a small streamer
1. Receiving donations from viewers via Twitch, YouTube and Facebook
All top streaming services allow fans to tip their favorite streamers either in real currency or some sort of virtual money that can be withdrawn from the platform.
- Twitch uses Bits as their virtual currency. Viewers can “cheer” a streamer with a certain number of Bits: for each 100 Bits, the streamer gets $1.00. Note that you need to be at least a Twitch Affiliate to receive donations in Bits. In order to get this status, you need to have 3 concurrent viewers on average and 50 followers.
- Youtube relies on their Super Chat for donations. Viewers can pay to get their message temporarily pinned on top of the chat, and the streamer will receive 70% of the amount they paid for it. In order to enable Super Chat, the streamer needs to be a YouTube Partner and have at least 1,000 subscribers.
- Facebook Gaming lets viewers purchase Stars. By doing so, they can display a special animation in the chat and get a shoutout from the streamer. Same as with Twitch, 100 Stars will get the streamer $1.00. In order to receive Stars, you need to be a part of the Level Up program. In order to join it, you need to have at least 100 followers.
Note that the majority of streaming services have a minimum payout threshold ($100 for both Twitch and YouTube) so don’t expect to make $10 from a single broadcast and leave with a check in your hand.
2. Getting donations through third-party services
While getting a Twitch or Youtube Partner status is a serious achievement that requires a lot of effort and streaming hours under your belt, there are third-party services like Streamlabs or Streamelements that allow creators to collect donations whatever their subscriber count may be.
These donation platforms all work in a similar way: you add a web widget to your OBS and post a link to the donation page in your stream description. You will be able to create all sorts of animated visuals for your stream like fundraising goals or donation notifications to motivate your viewers to tip. The money can be then withdrawn to PayPal or some other money transferring service depending on the donation platform you use.
It’s crucial to remember that such donations are not protected from chargebacks, like Bit tips on Twitch are, for example. So, if you receive such an unprotected donation, the viewer who sent it can potentially cancel the operation and cause you not only to lose the donation money but also get charged a cancellation fee.
3. Viewer subscriptions
Relying on donations is really difficult since they are sporadic. It gets even harder if you wish to make streaming your full-time job because one day, there might be a total drought, and the next day it will be raining money.
This is where monthly subscriptions come in handy: all popular streaming services have them, and you should definitely invest your time in them if you want to make streaming a more reliable source of income. What’s more important, channel subscriptions allow creators to implement special perks (e.g., custom emotes) for the most loyal viewers, and that’s a nice way to thank them for their dedication.
- Twitch offers a monthly membership program for viewers. You need to be at least a Twitch Affiliate in order to let your viewers buy subscriptions to your channel. After you join the program, three levels of monthly membership will be available to your audience: $4.99, $9.99, and $24.99. Twitch itself takes 50% of all subscription earnings, and you get the remaining 50%.
- Youtube has its own channel membership program. You can participate in it if you have YouTube Partner status, which means that you need at least 1000 subscribers on your channel. Google will take a 30% cut from all membership revenue, which is a considerable improvement compared to the similar terms on Twitch.
- Facebook Gaming recently (in 2020) started their fan membership program. In order to access it, you need to be on the list of Level Up creators with 250 returning viewers on your streams. Facebook, like Google, takes a cut of 30% from all membership earnings.
4. Displaying ads from Twitch, YouTube and Facebook
If you’re not very keen on donations and having to ask your viewers for tips, you might instead try one of the ad monetization programs provided by the large streaming platforms. However, you need to be aware that such ads will most often interrupt your stream, which might turn off some of your viewers.
There are two main types of ads in this category: automatic and manual. The automatic ones (pre-rolls and mid-rolls) are launched by your streaming platform without you being able to control them. For example, a pre-roll is an ad that is displayed to every new viewer when they first open your stream.
The manual ads (also called ad breaks) are the ones that you can launch at any time during your broadcast. This gives you an opportunity to prepare the audience for the break and thus lessen the negative reaction to the interruption of your stream.
Different streaming platforms have their own unique ad types too. For example, YouTube also shows viewers that don’t have a YouTube Premium subscription clickable ad overlays that are positioned right on top of the broadcast, plus there are side banners (bumper ads) that can be seen next to the video. All these types of ads are used to maximize the financial gains from each broadcast and provide advertisers with more options of putting their product on display.
Ads also differ based on how they are paid for by the advertiser, which means that your earnings will work differently for each of these types. Here are the three main ad models that you will be dealing with 99% of the time:
Now let’s take a look at the terms of the ad programs on the most popular streaming services:
- Twitch requires you to be an Affiliate or a Partner in order to run their ads. In terms of payout, there’s no exact numbers because companies protect these figures by Non-Disclosure Agreements that are individual for each streamer. But usually, earnings for this type of monetization don’t exceed $2-$3/hour for a streamer with 100 concurrent viewers.
There are some interesting features too: for example, you can disable pre- and mid-rolls for a certain duration if you run enough ad breaks.
- YouTube uses their AdSense engine to show ads on live broadcasts. Joining the party would require you to be a YouTube Partner with possible earnings varying from $2 to $20 for 1,000 views. In terms of percentage, YouTube claims to take 32% of the ad revenue and leave the remaining 68% to the streamer.
- Facebook allows selected Level Up streamers to run ads on their broadcasts. We tried finding some information on their ad service on the web but had no luck. But, at least you know it’s there, right?
5. Third-party ad partnerships
There are a few issues with the ad programs provided by Twitch and YouTube.
First off, they can’t generate any decent income for a small streamer, making such creators instead rely on donations and other sources of income. Also, in order to access these partnerships, you need to be an Affiliate, Partner, or a Level Up streamer: simply put, you’ve got to have an established channel that can generate certain viewership numbers.
Lastly, since pre-rolls and mid-rolls are started automatically, they usually pop up out of nowhere, which can irritate your viewers and even make them leave your broadcast early.
A nice solution to all of these issues is a third-party ad monetization platform like StreamHERO. With such a tool, ads are displayed on top of your broadcast just like a donation widget. There will be no need to pause your stream for ad breaks because the ads will be embedded right into it. This will certainly please viewers who quickly get tired of all sorts of ad rolls.
Here’s how the ad overlay will look like on your stream:
Another advantage of this method is that you (and not some secret algorithm) will be able to control the ad frequency on your channel. The payout threshold of $30 is also considerably lower than on Twitch and YouTube, so you won’t have to wait an eternity to be able to withdraw your hard-earned money.
6. Other money making methods:
There are other monetisation methods that are successfully used by streamers all around the globe. Here are some of them:
- Paid memberships for devoted fans. Services like Patreon, Memberful, Podia and similar allow creators to build smaller communities of their most supportive fans with a paid membership. The reward your viewers get is usually access to all sorts of additional content like funny outtakes from recent broadcasts and updates on your life, access to private discord servers where your viewers can chat with you, etc.
- Coaching, lessons. If you’re really good at the activity that you’re streaming, be it playing Hearthstone or slapping bass, you can offer paid lessons to your viewers. Even if you’re not very great at any particular skill but have a likeable personality, you can let your viewers book 1-on-1 conversations with you for a fee. People will be willing to pay for their favorite streamer to listen to them, especially if they have no one else around to talk to.
- Merch. Die-hard stans of your channel will be happy to find out that you sell custom t-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs and basically any sort of customized items that will let them build an even stronger bond with their favorite creator. Online services like Bonfire now allow streamers to build their own merch store with very little effort, plus a good design for the products they want to sell.
There are multiple ways you can turn your dedication into earnings as a streamer. If you’re not keen on partnering up with one of the streaming platforms like Twitch for ad revenue and Bit donations, there’s always alternatives from third-party companies. With that being said, streaming is about entertaining your audience above anything else, so try not to focus that much on how you monetize the content; instead, invest in the quality of your streams and how you interact with your viewers.