What does Ninja’s multi-platform experiment mean for the streaming industry?

Will his big risk pay off? Does it even have to?

Screengrab via Twitter.com/Ninja

Ninja was the most powerful content creator in the world of livestreaming just four years ago. His meteoric rise coincided with the Fortnite boom of 2018 that helped him set numerous records for viewership on Twitch.

Along with posting incredibly high benchmarks for peak concurrent viewers, he shattered any pre-existing notion of what a Twitch streamer could accomplish in terms of total subscriber count and overall viewership. His record of 269,154 active subscribers in April 2018 stood until the spring of 2021, and his record of 234.2 million hours watched in 2018 wasn’t surpassed until 2021 either.

Streaming with celebrities like Drake and hosting his own live events, Ninja paved the way for the livestreaming marketplace that we all know. To put it plainly, the blue-haired phenom shook up the game.

But just one year later, he broke the mold yet again—by leaving.

Announcing that he was leaving Twitch for Microsoft’s now-defunct platform Mixer, Ninja set up every streamer after him to maximize their profits by establishing a market for exclusive deals. If Twitch wanted to keep its talent, the platform needed to be able to keep up with offers from Mixer, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook.

Fast-forward to three years later, and the streaming war between Twitch and YouTube is ripe with creators announcing that they are either staying on Twitch or leaving for YouTube on a weekly basis.

Continuing his forward-thinking approach last week, Ninja decided that as his contract with Twitch came to an end, he wouldn’t be playing the exclusivity game anymore. Instead, Ninja let his Partner contract with Twitch expire. And now, he’s attempting to shake things up yet again by streaming to as many platforms as possible.

While the idea has drawn skepticism from some, like fellow high-profile streamer Asmongold, Ninja claimed that he was able to reel in more than 60,000 combined viewers across all of the platforms in his first streams.

Though he is still in the early phase of his experiment, there has already been an abundance of takeaways, both positive and negative. Here’s what we’ve learned from the first few days of Ninja going multi-platform.

Twitch stream stats: Friday, Sept. 9

  • Average viewers: 13,023 (data via Streams Charts)
  • Peak viewers: 16,764
  • Hours watched: 49,920

YouTube stream stats: Friday, Sept. 9

  • Average viewers: 7,002
  • Peak viewers: 9,873
  • Hours watched: 26,256

Viewership statistics for the other platforms that Ninja streamed on are not easily trackable, but a few things stood out almost immediately over the weekend.

Is TikTok a difference maker?

TikTok was wildly successful for Ninja early on. In the last hour of his TikTok stream on Friday, Sept. 9, he averaged 13,333 viewers on the platform with a peak of 27,161, according to Streams Charts. Generally speaking, he has been able to maintain a steady viewer base in the thousands on the platform. On his second day on TikTok, Ninja averaged 3,808 viewers with a peak of 14,663, totaling 12,072 hours watched on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Being able to hop on TikTok and immediately have some amount of success could pay dividends for other Twitch streamers as well. Following Twitch’s change in policy about streaming across multiple platforms, partnered streams are restricted from streaming on platforms perceived to be competition, like Facebook and YouTube. 

But TikTok is one place that partnered Twitch streamers are now allowed to restream. If Ninja’s experiment is replicable long-term, we could see more streamers start to go live on TikTok to make some extra money and grab more viewers without fear of breaking their Partner contract.

Facebook was a dud

Ninja could tell that he wasn’t a fan of streaming on Facebook early in his experiment. During his Sept. 10 stream, he explained that streams on Facebook are difficult to find, and going live on the platform isn’t a seamless process either.

For Ninja, the difficulty in finding Facebook streams was a primary reason for his viewership on the platform suffering relative to others. Despite maintaining thousands of viewers on Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok, his Facebook channel only had a few hundred.

On Sept. 10, he even cut the Facebook portion of his stream short because of failing viewership. With around 250 viewers on the platform, he told fans on Facebook to head over to Twitch, YouTube, or TikTok if they wanted to keep watching.

At the time he ended his Facebook stream, Ninja had around 16,000 Twitch viewers, nearly 6,000 YouTube viewers, and about 8,400 people watching him on TikTok, totaling more than 30,000 viewers.

What’s the benefit of streaming everywhere at once?

One criticism that Asmongold expressed about his move was that streaming to multiple platforms would just fragment your viewer base, not increase it.

But Ninja’s viewership has increased tremendously thus far with his move to streaming “everywhere.” He went from having an average of 13,631 viewers on Twitch from Jan. 1 to Sept. 9 to having more than double that.

“Should we stream only on Twitch and get 15,000 viewers or stream everywhere and get a combined 60,000 viewers?” Ninja said on stream on Sept. 10. “What do you think’s the right play.”

It’s unclear if that level of viewership is something Ninja will maintain, but at least for now, having diversity is paying off.

Additionally, Ninja talked on Sept. 10 about other perks that could come from his new flexibility. Without an exclusivity deal, Ninja can sell streaming rights for events. To give an example, he mentioned his highly successful Las Vegas event that broke records on Twitch. If he were to organize something similar, he could leverage his freedom to make more money.

What are the challenges?

Ninja quickly found out on Friday, Sept. 9 how logistically challenging streaming to so many platforms would be. He even pared things down on Saturday, Sept. 10 by not going live on all six platforms.

Afterward, once viewers started to flood in, trying to keep up with every chat proved to be quite the task for Ninja, who initially struggled to read all of them at the same time.

Once he’s accustomed to it, Ninja knows his next hurdle will be building a viewership base on platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Noting the move to YouTube that others have made, Ninja mentioned that establishing a community off of Twitch requires a lot of work.

With Twitch being the most powerful endemic platform for game streaming, it can be tough for creators to coax fans off Twitch to watch a stream on YouTube. Luckily for Ninja, he also broadcasts on Twitch, so the change doesn’t necessarily present the same type of issue.

Another complication Ninja will have to consider is the effect that losing his Partner status on Twitch will have. While he now has access to YouTube and TikTok monetization features, Ninja lost the ability to leverage ads and subscriptions on Twitch. As his experiment continues, he’ll need to do the math to make sure those new sources of revenue match or outweigh the ones he has lost.

But what about “getting the bag?”

One of the primary reasons that the battle between YouTube and Twitch is so hotly contested is because of the upfront money that streamers are getting from their exclusive contracts. In explaining their moves to YouTube, many creators have framed it in a positive light, insinuating that getting paid will be good for the fans in the long run.

Having guaranteed money gives these creators “freedom” to work on projects that they perhaps otherwise wouldn’t be able to because of how arduous their previous streaming grind was. Getting a big payday, which many refer to as “getting the bag,” is one of the biggest reasons that streamers look to sign lucrative contracts that give them the promise of a stable financial future.

Streaming to multiple platforms prevents a creator from getting that exclusivity money, which is one reason why no notable content creator had attempted it. But Ninja is in a little bit of a unique situation. 

Ninja was the first major streamer to sign a highly lucrative deal with a streaming platform. When Mixer shut down operations, not only was Ninja free to go find another exclusive deal but he was bought out by Mixer as well. Ninja got his big payday and he was relatively quickly back on the free market.

In essence, the fortune that Ninja made for himself from his grind in 2018 and 2019 still gives him the freedom and flexibility for experimentation that many creators look for when they sign exclusive contracts now.