Twitch and YouTube are both reportedly experiencing large executive turnover in recent months, causing industry analysts like Devin Nash to sound the alarm on the future direction of the live streaming industry. The departure of key figures at both platforms could leave their strategic direction in doubt as both companies are forced to seek replacements for high-level positions with enormous implications on the future success of the streaming market.
The sudden loss in C-level talent began with Fwiz leaving his role as Head of Gaming at YouTube in January, followed by several other executives like Jamie Byrne and Heather Rivera also leaving the company. Twitch are experiencing a similar loss of C-suite according to Bloomberg Reporter Cecilia D'Anastasio, who published a new report on the turnover at Twitch this week. More than 60 people have left Twitch since the start of 2022, D'Anastasio writes, including executives like Marcus "DJ Wheat" Graham.
Why are people leaving Twitch and YouTube?
According to the Bloomberg report, employees at Twitch cited the company's failure to listen to streamers and their strategy of focusing on expanding monetization instead of serving core users as part of the reason they left. D'Anastsio reported, "that strategy, [former employees] say, has alienated some hard-core users and the employees who serve them - the very people whose ingenuity and enthusiasm made Twitch a success."
On YouTube Gaming's side, Fwiz's departure after working with the company for many years is a concerning loss for the burgeoning live stream competitor, as the platform is already struggling to grow. According to the Stream Hatchet 2021 yearly streamer report, YouTube Gaming actually shrunk by nearly 20% in 2021 in terms of hours watched, despite boasting talents like Rachell "Rae" Hofstetter and Jack "CouRage" Dunlop on the platform.
Devin Nash, CEO of Nova, a creative agency in online marketing, expects it will only get worse for YouTube Gaming from here, arguing it will be difficult to find executives with experience building and advancing the needs of streaming platforms to replace people like Fwiz or DJ Wheat.
"That is why I think we are going to see YouTube Gaming growth stall," Nash said in a video this week. "We've seen people like Ryan Fwizz, who was the spiritual leader of YouTube Gaming within YouTube, he departed. [...] That has pretty enormous implications. Finding people in this space that can understand the livestreaming world and understand how to grow things at a platform level is extremely hard. I think that is why we still have Emmett Shear as the CEO of Twitch, because no one can replace the guy. Someone should, but nobody can."
Nash continued: "It's hard to find someone at an executive level who understands live streaming enough to really run a platform like that. I think [...] Fwiz was one of the few people who could do that, and by extension, I think a lot of his team left at the same time. And so YouTube is going to have a hard time replacing that talent at YouTube to make YouTube Gaming a thing."
What this means for the streaming industry?
The loss of strategic leadership in streaming is concerning for the future growth of the market generally. While 2021 saw a 21% total increase in stream watch time, that number was actually down from 2020 which saw an 80% increase amid the pandemic lockdowns. For growth to continue, these platforms need to keep innovating and pushing the envelope, something that will be hard to do without high-level executives who understand the industry well enough.
"I actually kind of worry, on the doomsday thing, that YouTube Gaming might enter a death spiral because the combination of things," Nash concluded. "Unless they have a visionary leader who kind of takes over things, and as of yet it's been a couple months now and we haven't seen that, I am a little worried about the direction of YouTube Gaming. It will still be fine, but it will not compete with Twitch the same way it looked like it would in 2021 Q1."
2022 is going to be an important year for live streaming platforms, which are facing internal and external challenges and seeking leaders who can take them to the next level.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.