Let’s say you’re an up-and-coming streamer. You’ve done it for a while and you make decent money, although you’re no Tyler “Ninja” Blevins. But you’re on your way there, or so you hope. A while back, you got the opportunity to sign with an agency that promised to help you set up deals to advertise brands on your streams. Today, that’s finally paying off. The agency calls you to offer a $10,000 deal. You don’t think twice. That’s a handsome chunk of change. Time to pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate. There’s just one problem. Turns out the agency pocketed $90,000.
The above hypothetical scenario is based on a true story told by former CEO of esports organization CLG and current CMO of streaming company N3rdfusion Devin Nash, who opted to keep the streamer and agency’s identities anonymous. According to Nash’s story, which echoes others that Kotaku heard in the course of reporting, the initial deal was $100,000 for a single streamer to represent a big brand. But the agency was in full control of negotiations, so it just conveniently omitted the part about the remaining $90,000, because hey, $10,000 sounds pretty good in isolation, right? So the agency drew up a limited partnership agreement, and that was that. Nash went on to tell Kotaku that the streamer didn’t even get to keep the full $10,000.
“[The agency] also took the ten percent they had contractually,” Nash said in a Discord voice call. “So they took $1,000 and also pocketed the $90,000. They made $91,000, the streamer made $9,000, and nobody was the wiser.”
Streaming is big business now, and that means big money. But it also means that the world of streaming is transforming, and streamers are having to learn on the fly how to do more than just entertain. They’re having to strike deals with companies, agencies, and now entire platforms. Toward the end of last year, the deals grew bigger than ever, with blue-haired Fortnite megastar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins jumping ship from Twitch to Microsoft-owned streaming platform Mixer in a high-profile exclusivity deal that was soon followed by countless others. The business of video game streaming is rapidly evolving into something that echoes Hollywood, with agents and managers negotiating on behalf of streamers who are increasingly treated like actors or TV shows, and who wind up on platforms that stand in for more traditional networks.
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