YouTube's Creator Signing Spree Continues

Another big signing on Tuesday further illustrated the platform's strategy to beat Twitch.

Another day, another YouTube announcement.

On Tuesday, the platform announced the signing of content creator Leslie “Fuslie” Ann Fu to an exclusive livestreaming contract.

Her signing is the latest in a string of large livestreamer deals YouTube’s inked since late 2021, in a new strategy much different from its past attempts at carving out a significant stake from Twitch’s market share. 

Despite Fuslie being ranked 106th among English-speaking channels on Twitch, her signing builds on YouTube’s new strategy: Sign creators who are in a clique and have some significant audience overlap. If YouTube is able to build a stable base around a set of creators who have connective tissue, then it might be able to build a core audience of its own.

Nothing made that more apparent than Fuslie’s announcement video: a short music number featuring some of YouTube’s big-name signings in disguise, playing instruments. That included Ludwig Ahgren, Rachell “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, Ali “Myth” Kabbani, Lily “LilyPichu” Ki and Sykkuno—each of whom have signed deals with YouTube in the past year. 

And that—that funny and humorous announcement video—speaks volumes. 

Each of those creators appear in each other’s content on a regular basis. It’s part of what Ludwig, in a conversation I had with him last week, talked about:

“When you have many people, then you as an individual have a higher floor because you are constantly creating content with these people,” Ludwig said. “In that way, you can never really fade, you can never drift off into obscurity, cause you’re always being exposed to people in some way.”

YouTube is now signing in those exact cliques, and in a way, these creators are doing YouTube’s job for them. 

This is no longer the strategy of just signing the biggest names, the approach Mixer and Facebook have taken to try to knock off Twitch. It’s about creating a pocket of audience and hoping they stick around on the site.

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For the creators, these deals are incredibly advantageous. 

Unlike Twitch, YouTube is not pushing for an extraordinary amount of streaming hours in their contracts, mostly because they don’t need to. YouTube’s platform isn’t based solely on livestreaming. I’d argue, despite livestreaming becoming an increasingly important part of the platform, it’s still very much a smaller part of YouTube’s business strategy ​​​​compared to video-on-demand or even Shorts, its relatively new TikTok competitor. And the creators they’ve signed have made this abundantly clear.

“This move means one thing, and one thing only: more of me in my everyday life, more of me behind the scenes, more opportunity to travel and meet you guys across the world,” Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, who became one of the first gaming creators to sign with YouTube exclusively back in 2019, said at the time. “There’s no more of the fear of being tied down just for a sub-count button.”

Twitch’s monetization structure also punishes creators for taking time off—even if they’re guaranteed a base level of compensation from the platform itself. Baked into Twitch’s agreement is a subscription revenue share. For the average partner, that’s 50-50, but the larger creators often take less upfront in exchange for a higher split—often 70-30.

So even a few days off can significantly hit a creator’s bottom line. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, for example, said he lost more than 40,000 Twitch subscribers in 2018 while on a two-day break from streaming.

By incentivizing creators to stream less—streaming requires more individual effort from creators than video-on-demand creation, which often involves a team—YouTube is sweetening the pot all the more.

While the strategy here is unique, it’s not exactly clear if it will work. 

When Mixer signed Ninja and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek in mid-2019, the two did take some users from Twitch, but not many. Instead, many found new creators on Twitch and remained in the bowels of the website.

“People like to think they’re fans of a streamer, but if everyone is stepping back, you realize you’re a fan of the website,” Ludwig said in our interview. “Maybe a circle of streamers. Most people are very simple—they have one person they’ll watch if they’re on. 

“The thing about Twitch is it really does have its own culture. It doesn’t matter who you watch, they know the culture, they’ll be a part of it. You can immediately hop in and it won’t feel weird watching somebody brand-new. As opposed to watching a new YouTuber, where there's much less a sense of culture.”

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