Competitive Behavior in the Attention Economy - The Case of Twitch Streamers

Wollborn, Philip; Reindl, Matthias; Ehrmann, Thomas


Recent research argues that entrepreneurs who generate their main income through online digital

platforms are subject to specific power asymmetries. The platform firms can often single-handedly

impose changes that can have a strong impact on the success of entrepreneurs using these platforms,

which lead to the term of “platform-dependent entrepreneurs” (PDEs). These dependencies can be

especially crucial within the “attention economy”, meaning community-focused business like social

media platforms. On these platforms, PDEs (e.g. influencers) often are “price-takers” with an explicit

price of zero as their core content is typically free access by other platform users. It is only through the

attention generated by these PDEs that they can build a brand and monetize their content, with typical

examples being sponsorship/advertisement deals, merchandising, exclusive premium content, or paywhat-

you-want options. One particularly interesting platform in this matter is the online live-streaming

platform Twitch. On Twitch, users (streamers) are able to broadcast a diverse portfolio of live content,

typically featuring themselves, while interacting directly with their audience. As live-streams are

typically free to watch for viewers, streamers have only two strategic options at hand to maximize

monetization: what to stream and when to stream. These two options are related to the actual structure

of competition: both the content to be streamed (what) and the time of streaming (when) can be viewed

as an optimal (re-)action to the (re-)actions of all the other streamers active on the platform. In this

context, we provide empirical results regarding the competitive behavior of streamers as well as an

example for the risks and chances of PDEs face through decisions by the platforms they operate on.We

show that streamers tend to pursue temporary clustering in time and content, similarly to the Hotellingmodel,

though not all components of these strategies seem to actually increase audience size and

subsequently income generation.

-ive streaming platform; streaming behavior; platform-dependent entrepreneurs; strategic options; competition

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