Published July 18, 2021
For a live-streamer, subscribers are king. Donations are great, but nothing beats a consistent, monthly sub paycheck.
But what if we told you a subscriber is worth more on Facebook Gaming and YouTube than on Twitch?
Well, on paper at least. In reality, the situation is much more nuanced.
So where can you make the most sub revenue? If you’re asking that question, you’re probably a Twitch streamer considering switching to YouTube or Facebook Gaming. Or you’re a total newbie trying to choose the right platform to start on.
Either way, it’s an important debate. And a big point of competition between the “Big Three” platforms. While all three allow you to earn subscriber income, they aren’t all equal. There are key differences—both technical and cultural—that you’ll want to consider before choosing.
Read on to discover how streamers earn natively on each platform and which one might be best for you.
Facebook may be the butt of live-streaming jokes, but there’s no denying the platform’s creator-friendly monetization policies. That became abundantly clear in June of 2021 when their Partnerships Manager dropped a bombshell—if somewhat deceiving—announcement.
We’re doubling down on creators. Facebook has waived all revshare from subscriptions until 2023! Yeah, you read that correctly. You’ll continue to receive 100% of your subscriptions when purchased on desktop.This applies to Partners, Level Up and all FB creators. #CreatorFirst— Josh (@CatchMeStreamin) June 7, 2021
We’re doubling down on creators. Facebook has waived all revshare from subscriptions until 2023! Yeah, you read that correctly. You’ll continue to receive 100% of your subscriptions when purchased on desktop.This applies to Partners, Level Up and all FB creators. #CreatorFirst
That’s right. For every Facebook Gaming desktop subscription, you’ll keep 100% of the revenue — at least for the next two years. Compare that to 70% on YouTube and just 50% on Twitch and you’ll see why heads are being turned.
But there’s a catch. This rule doesn’t apply to mobile subscriptions. And a huge chunk of Facebook viewers are watching from mobile devices, with estimates as high as 80%! That’s much more than Twitch’s mobile audience (40-50%) and a bit higher than YouTube (70%).
For mobile Facebook Gaming subs, you’ll keep 70% of subscription revenue (and 85% for subscribers of longer than a year). 70% is still a huge cut—on par with YouTube and more than Twitch—but not quite as appealing as 100%.
Unlike Twitch and YouTube, Facebook Gaming does not have tiered subscription levels. Instead, each channel has a single base subscription. As a creator, you can custom-set the price of your subscription, anywhere between .99 and 99.99 USD. Your subscribers—often referred to as a “Supporters”—unlock all channel perks with a single purchase.
The lack of tiered subscriptions is a definite bummer. It means Facebook Gaming streamers miss out on the bonus income their counterparts receive from higher-level subs.
However, the ability to set custom sub prices is a huge plus. If your channel can justify the higher prices, you could very likely be making more per sub than creators on Twitch and YouTube. But more importantly, it supports streamers in lower-income regions of the world, whose viewers may not be able to afford $4.99 per month.
Thankfully, Facebook also allows community sub gifting—something that YouTube currently lacks. However, the feature is restricted to mobile-viewers-only, which means you won’t get any of that juicy 100% desktop sub revenue — at least not in gift-form.
Regardless, gifted subscriptions are a fantastic monetization feature, allowing you to rack up tons of revenue in an instant. And that’s a big win for Facebook streamers.
Facebook Gaming sounds like a good bet on paper, but how does it play out in reality? How many subs should streamers expect to receive? Is the Facebook audience sub-friendly?
Not quite. Well, at least not yet.
Sadly, Facebook lags significantly behind Twitch in terms of subscriber culture. Much like on YouTube, viewers just aren’t accustomed to paying for content. Whereas the Twitch system is built around subs, monthly subscriptions are still an alien concept to most Facebook Gaming viewers.
You’re much more likely to see Facebook viewers donating “Stars” (the platform’s equivalent of Twitch Bits) than subscribing or gifting subs. The vast majority of viewers are okay with remaining un-subbed and watching content for free. And that’s bad for your wallet.
Then there’s viewer awareness. For one, Facebook needs to do a lot more to promote and clarify the supporter program. Many viewers still don’t understand the benefits—or even existence—of the feature. It doesn’t help that Facebook often uses the terms “subscriber” and “supporter” interchangeably, only muddying the waters more.
However, times are changing. Facebook Gaming leadership is working hard to establish a sub culture that could rival Twitch. Custom sub pricing and gifted subs are both big steps in the right direction. Their acquisition of top celebrity streamers—and hordes of Mixer creators—has also certainly helped. Only time will tell if subscriber craze will catch on…or die out.
For those seeking huge sub counts, the platform is certainly a gamble — but one that could eventually pay off.
Many streamers find it difficult to imagine there is sub money to be found on YouTube. But there is!
Over the past couple of years in fact, YouTube’s subscription features have kept pace with Twitch and Facebook — and even surpassed them in certain areas! So much so that in 2020, YouTube creators earned over 4x more sub revenue compared to 2019.
But for new creators, one of the earliest stumbling blocks comes from terminology.
As you may be aware, YouTube uses the term “subscriber” in a way that’s completely different to other platforms. Viewers can “subscribe” to your YouTube channel for free, in order to see and be notified when your stream is live — much like a “follower” on Twitch and Facebook. Instead, YouTube uses the term “members” to refer to paid, monthly subs. On YouTube, members earn you income; subscribers do not.
Once you get past the upside-down lingo, you’ll find that YouTube sub monetization is actually very creator-friendly. At least in theory.
As mentioned earlier, YouTube claims 30% of your membership revenue, leaving you with a sizable 70%. While it doesn’t beat keeping all your paid subs to yourself, it definitely trumps splitting it halfway with Twitch.
In stark contrast to Facebook Gaming’s single subscription, YouTube memberships come in multiple tiers, or “levels”. Much like on Twitch, viewers can choose their contribution to your channel from various price points. The higher the tier, the more they pay and the better rewards they unlock.
But here’s where it gets crazy. On YouTube, you can custom-build your member tiers. That means you can choose your own prices and channel perks, with up to five different levels available. That’s a lot more than Twitch’s three tiers, and more options equals more revenue opportunities for your channel.
What about the price tag? Well, YouTube creators can charge anywhere between $0.99 to $99.99 for any level of their channel membership. That’s 4x more than the limit on Twitch ($24.99) and on par with Facebook. And that makes a big difference when it’s time for your biggest, most loyal fans to resubscribe!
That said, it’s clear—at least on paper—that YouTube wins the game of sub customization and revenue potential. But how does it play out in the real world?
Unfortunately, YouTube suffers from many of the same symptoms as Facebook Gaming. The most damaging for creators is its absence—for the most part—of a healthy subscriber (i.e. “member”) culture.
After all, YouTube is the world’s largest archive of free videos. And because of that, its users just aren’t accustomed to shelling out for monthly content. At least not yet. So while the platform has more tier customization than ever, attracting viewers that will actually pay for them may get frustrating.
Instead—much like on Facebook—you’re more likely to receive direct donations. That means either third-party donos or YouTube’s native streamer currencies, Super Chat and Super Stickers.
Then there’s the lack of gifted memberships. To date, YouTube still has not implemented this feature. Nor are there rumors that it will be added anytime soon. And that’s bad news, considering how much Twitch and Facebook streamers are making off community gifting.
Not to mention memberships themselves can be confusing. Aside from terminology woes, YouTube hasn’t done a great job promoting or branding its membership feature. In fact, many viewers still don’t even know the feature exists! And with so much variance in channel membership fees, keeping track of sub finances becomes all the more difficult.
But that doesn’t mean you should write YouTube off. For one thing, Twitch’s sub culture is gradually seeping into the community — especially as more streamers and viewers migrate. Custom sub tiers have the potential to be an industry gamechanger. And if YouTube ever implements its own “free” equivalent to the Twitch Prime sub—perhaps using YouTube Premium—it would become a top contender overnight.
In the end, banking on YouTube member money is risky — but a risk that many creators may be willing to take.
And then there’s Twitch. Subscribers on Twitch have existed for almost a decade. The program’s success would inspire and influence every platform to come — including YouTube and Facebook Gaming.
Many of us already know how the Twitch subscriber system works. For those unfamiliar, here’s a quick recap.
Like YouTube, Twitch offers multiple tiers (or levels) of subscriptions. The higher the tier, the higher the price and the more perks a viewer unlocks. A Tier 1 sub costs $4.99. Tier 2 is priced at $9.99 and Tier 3 is $24.99. Those prices are slightly higher for mobile viewers, due to fees charged by device manufacturers Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android).
By default, Twitch takes a 50% revenue share of all tiered subscriptions. That’s pretty steep, especially compared to its competitor platforms. While larger streamers have the opportunity to negotiate for more favorable percentages, the vast majority of streamers are stuck at 50%.
That may seem like a tough pill to swallow, but Twitch has a secret weapon on its side. And that’s the Prime sub! This is essentially a “free” monthly sub available to any viewer with an Amazon Prime subscription, which includes over 150 million global users. Best of all, streamers get to keep 100% of their Prime sub revenue, valued at $4.99 each!
On top of that, Twitch has the most advanced community gifting feature, by far. While Facebook’s gifted subs are maxed out at 50, Twitch allows up to 100 at a time. Viewers can also gift Tier 2 and Tier 3 subscriptions, boosting value even further.
Lastly, Twitch has begun implementing “local sub pricing“. This new feature adjusts subscription cost to account for local currencies. That makes it easier for viewers to subscribe to your channel, even if they live in parts of the world with lower income. And more affordable subscriptions mean more potential subs for your channel, even if they might be worth slightly less than you’re used to.
But how does all this play out for actual Twitch streamers?
Subscriptions are at the very heart of Twitch. The entire system is built around subscribers, from sub counts to sub trains and massive gifted “sub bombs”. And unlike on YouTube and Facebook, Twitch viewers have embraced it.
So much so, in fact, that the largest streamers make an estimated 80% of their on-platform income from subscribers alone.
Even after Twitch’s 50% cut, streamers are raking in big profits from the platform’s healthy sub culture. Twitch viewers, meanwhile, seem more comfortable paying for content — and the perks that come with it.
But just where do those subs come from?
Well, only a very small portion tends to come from higher-tier subs. For most streamers, just about 1% of subscriptions come from Tier 2 or Tier 3’s. Streamer NICKMERCS, for example, has just 627 Tier 2 and 271 Tier 3 subs — versus 61.5K total subscribers (July 2021, TwitchTracker).
Translate that to smaller streamers and you can imagine just how rare Tier 2 and Tier 3 subs really are. In reality, they’re a nice “bonus“, but hardly a reliable source of income.
On the flip side, Prime subs have proven to be a gold mine for creators. Consider top creator xQc, who regularly has more Prime subscribers than paid subs! That’s not unheard of — for many larger streamers, Prime subs make up a whopping 30-35% of their total sub count.
And why shouldn’t they be wildly popular? After all, Prime subs are “free” for viewers to use and 100% of revenue goes directly towards their favorite creator! That’s a win-win, and a huge advantage for Twitch streamers. No other platform has anything that can compare, at least not yet.
As for gifted subs, well, those too have become ingrained into Twitch culture. For larger creators, gifted subs tend to make up about 5-10% of total subs. In these streams, it’s not uncommon to see 5, 10, 50 and even 100 subs gifted en-masse. These large sub “bombs” are a huge potential windfall for any streamer — and something that neither YouTube nor Facebook have yet been able to replicate.
So which platform wins the battle of the subs?
On paper, it may be tempting to name YouTube or Facebook Gaming the winner. After all, both have more generous revenue sharing (70% on YouTube, 70-100% on Facebook versus 50% on Twitch). Both too have customizable sub prices (ranging from .99-99.99 USD), giving streamers more control over their sub income. And the ability to build your own sub tiers on YouTube is a dream for community-minded creators.
But we can’t ignore the cultural differences that continue to favor Twitch. Subscriber economies on YouTube and Facebook remain in their fledgling state. Viewers there are still less motivated to dish out monthly contributions. The sub hysteria that grips Twitch hasn’t yet spread to YouTube or Facebook Gaming.
And maybe it never will. But both platforms have seen massive growth and promising signals of change. And that keeps us hopeful for the future.
For now though, Twitch remains the clear champion of sub revenue. Both technically and culturally, their system fosters subscribers like nowhere else. Alone, the Prime sub more than makes up for the platform’s 50% revenue cut. Add in gifted subs and a massive, subscriber-friendly audience and you’ve got a combination that’s tough to beat.
But what about channel size? Does the answer change depending on your audience size? Of course it does!
For large streamers, Twitch is the clear-cut, far-and-away winner. The system was practically built for you to rake in hordes of subscriber revenue.
For smaller streamers though, discoverability plays a bigger factor. It’s no secret getting noticed on Twitch is tough, if not impossible. And if you’re only streaming to one or two viewers, you’re relying on them alone to bring you subs. Whereas on YouTube and Facebook it’s much easier to attract an initial audience — even if that audience may be less willing to subscribe and instead just watch for free.
In which instance are you more likely to earn sub revenue? It’s a close call, and one that depends on your channel’s risk tolerance. Are you willing to roll the dice on YouTube and Facebook, on the chance that subscriber culture there eventually rivals Twitch?
Either way, keep a close eye on this race in the coming years. We expect it to tighten up considerably.
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