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Sub-only option on Twitch raises questions about potential impact of Valve TOS

The introduction of subscriber-only streams on Twitch has created a lot of conversation about the potential for a new tier of esports tournament, where the user has to pay to watch and the established norm of ‘free to see’ is thrown out of the window.

Many of the biggest name in the scene have offered their opinions on the matter, but it may be they are all making moot points, as a section of Valve’s Terms Of Service (TOS) agreement appears to forbid putting their content behind any kind of paywall.

The section states that all use of Valve content in videos must be non-commercial, which is an odd phrase when you consider the massive amounts of money in esports today. The specific wording states that you ‘can’t charge users to view or access your videos’, which is slightly vague when you consider the way TOs currently monetise their product, but it does seem to cover the possibility of Pay-Per-View streams using Valve games at least.

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Use of our content in videos must be non-commercial. By that we mean you can't charge users to view or access your videos. You also can't sell or license your videos to others for a payment of any kind.

Riot and the rest

There are more publishers than Valve in the space, but the American firm controls two of the big three, and Riot have a similar section in their terms. There is no doubt that companies like Epic and Activision were aware of this change too, and with Activision having control of their own stream platform in MLG Gaming this could open doors for plans that esports like Call of Duty have long been kicking around.

You may not create commercial Projects, including any Project that crowdsources any portion of its funding, any Project that involves a business or legal entity, or any Project where you gate the content with a paywall (e.g., Patreon, YouTube Premium, etc.) without a written license agreement from us.

The potential for the introduction of PPV has been kicked around for a long time in many esports, and this does seem like Twitch are just attempting to catch up to YouTube’s Premium service, but they are placed differently in the market to YT at the moment. Fans are used to going to Twitch for their esports, free of charge, and the move to PPV could see a divide in esports than changes the face of the industry for years to come.

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