Ex-Twitch executive Justin Wong comments on Ninja vs. Twitch situation

This was a move by Twitch to try and capitalize on a big audience.

Photo via ESPAT Media

Twitch is still getting hammered with criticism after it used Tyler “Ninja” Blevins’ channel to promote other streams after Ninja signed an exclusive deal with rival streaming platform Mixer.

The latest person to criticize the streaming platform: former vice president of community and partnerships, Justin Wong. For more than six years, he worked at Twitch, so there may be few people more equipped to speak on a matter such as this.

“Twitch’s decision to unilaterally promote other channels on Ninja’s channel represents a long-running internal conflict at Twitch,” Wong said in his first tweet. “Who owns the viewers – the streamer or the platform?”

Twitch CEO Emmett Shear described its promotional tactic on Ninja’s channel as an experiment of sorts. But its decision to do so backfired when pornographic content rose to the top of the featured channels. Fans and Ninja alike blasted the streaming site for allowing such a thing.

Wong, who was part of Twitch while it was growing into the platform it is today, noted that this method of promoting streams while a user is offline is not surprising. 

Because a potential viewer might only come to Twitch to watch a single user, such as Ninja, they are more likely to leave the site than explore for another streamer if their desired broadcaster is offline. This is why Twitch introduced the auto-hosting feature.

Related: Twitch CEO apologizes to Ninja for “lewd content” promoted on his old channel

Auto-hosting allows streamers to curate their own list of streamers they want to promote when they aren’t live. This list can be set to prioritize certain channels and will rotate to the next online user on the list if the person being hosted went offline. 

“But Autohost puts control in the streamer’s hands,” Wong said. “They can choose which channels they want to host, and they can even opt-out of auto-hosting entirely. This is Twitch acknowledging that the streamer should have a say in who gets promoted to the following they’ve built.”

But when it came to Ninja’s page, which has nearly 15 million followers, Twitch took away the streamer’s choice and put a broad category on the channel. It was completely based on an algorithm, without any say from Ninja or his team. 

“Twitch says it’s an experiment,” Wong said. “So if we take them at their word, they want this on every offline channel. This would effectively remove participation from every streamer. You would have no say in who gets promoted on your channel when you’re offline.”

After the massive blowback from Ninja, other creators, and viewers, Twitch reverted the changes. But this won’t stop experiments like this happening again once the news cycle moves on. Twitch wants to find a way to keep more users on the site, which starts with the offline channels being made into constant advertisements for other streams. 

“It seems vindictive, but I think it’s just out of touch,” Wong said. “Ninja should still own his channel, and while he may no longer be a Twitch partner after *EIGHT YEARS* of streaming, he’s still a user. And that’s a terrible way to treat your users.”