This article will walk you through the basics about esports streaming, including the most popular esports streaming services, where the livestream industry stands today, what esports games you can watch and how you can make money betting on esports streaming sites.
Where to watch Esports streams
Some esports betting sites allow you to watch the matches right from their site via an embedded Twitch plugin. This allows you to place live esports bets from the same screen you are watching the game on – pretty cool!
Unikrn offers the ability to watch most of their esports offerings, such as CS:GO, Dota 2, and League of Legends directly from their browser or mobile device. Unikrn has the best and easiest to navigate interface of all the sites that let you watch esports streams live.
Here is our detailed guide to LoL Streaming.
Betway has a great esports betting app and also lets you watch all of your favorite matches live on their website. It even shows a little “live” reminder next to each title if there is a match currently going on. This is true for both esports and traditional sports. Note that Betway is a good place to watch tournament streams in French.
Buff.bet has a similar setup to Betway, but has a tab exclusively for live sports and esports. They also simply embed the league’s Twitch stream into their website.
Given that all of these betting websites livestream the matches from Twitch, they all should have about the same game feeds as one another. They are simply rebroadcasting the official CS:GO stream of the particular league on their own websites. Read our comprehensive guide to CSGO betting here.
Esports betting sites that offer esports streaming betting
The ability to bet on live streams has only been available for a few years, rising in popularity soon after the Fortnite boom and Twitch’s exponential growth because of it. Many sites offer the ability to bet on streamers while they play their favorite games.
Here are the best sites for watching esports streamers:
Unikrn is one of the most popular betting sites and offers the most options for betting on esports streamers.
Unikrn offers streamer betting on Call of Duty: Warzone and Fortnite. The site allows users to bet on how well the streamer will place in their current game, offering odds for placing in the top twenty-five, five, or first. The odds are different for each player and change over time as the player develops.
Unikrn offers a few streamers for each game and the streamers are aware they can be bet on – they have likely agreed to a set of terms and conditions from Unikrn.
Loeya, a popular Fortnite content creator is the biggest name to ever appear on the site, but many other content creators are also available to be bet on with Unikrn.
Read our detailed Unikrn esports review here.
GG.bet is another popular betting site that allows you to watch your favorite streamers. Currently, they only offer live streamer betting on Fortnite, but have offered streamer betting for other titles in the past.
Currently, Fortnite betting is the most popular game for streamer betting as it is the most mainstream gaming title and lots of fun to bet on and watch at the same time!
This site also offers the ability to watch games live and does so in the same way as the sites mentioned above. Twitch encourages this and has their own API to help third party sites integrate their content in a natural format.
Read our detailed GG.bet esports review here.
Esports Streaming platforms and esports streaming sites
First, it is important to understand what sites fall under the “esports streaming” category. Right now, these are the six biggest esports streaming platforms:
Originally released in 2006 as Justin.tv, Twitch has grown into the biggest and most popular streaming platform of them all. Twitch currently averages over four million average concurrent users and each of the top 5 highest grossing streamers made more than $1,000,000 in 2020 – NickMercs led the way with more than $1.7 million earned.
At its start, Justin.tv featured only one live streamer, the co-founder and CEO, Justin Kan. Kan would attach a GoPro to his forehead and livestream his entire day. Eventually, people enjoyed his content and began creating their own. Justin.tv was rebranded to Twitch.tv on June 6, 2011. It later sold to Amazon for $1 Billion dollars in August of 2016.
Twitch has achieved mainstream streaming appeal, meaning it is more similar to Instagram live than any of the other platforms mentions. In fact, the most popular category on Twitch is Just Streaming, a section for talking, reacting to videos, etc…
Twitch’s Rise in Popularity
Twitch became popular around the same time as Fortnite – this is no coincidence. Fortnite is fun to watch, and quickly became the most popular game on the site. This initial jump due to Fornite gave Twitch more mainstream appeal than its competitors (also due to Fortnite’s mainstream appeal).
In 2020, Twitch saw another big jump in viewership due to lockdowns and the pandemic. Today, the site has an average viewership of more than 2.9 million viewers, compared to about 750,000 in 2017.
Everyone knows about YouTube, but not everyone knows that YouTube also offers livestream content in addition to their traditional library of videos. YouTube added live streaming to their platform in 2011, giving some of their most popular content creators special access to the feature for good.
In 2013, YouTube allowed all partnered creators with over 1,000 subscribers to stream live, and in 2016 they released live streaming to all users on their platform.
According to Stream Hatchet and Streamlabs, YouTube saw just 5.5% of the total live streaming hours from July-September 2020. It is surprising that YouTube accounts for such a small market share, but it is important to understand why this is the case.
YouTube, being a short-form media site for so long, attracts a different audience than Twitch, whose main attraction is live streaming. Generally, more casual games are more popular on YouTube and more competitive ones on Twitch. Minecraft, for example, is far more popular on YouTube than Twitch.
This is because competitive games and esports streamers are more interesting to watch when they are live, just like sports. Traditional, planned content often requires time to practice, build, and edit before being published. It alludes that since YouTube has been a home for traditional, short-form content, most of their livestream viewership would be on these titles as well.
Surprisingly, YouTube is also the go-to streaming platform for mobile esports streams, such as Garena Free Fire, PUBG Mobile, and Call of Duty: Mobile.
Facebook Gaming is significantly smaller than either of the platforms above, as the social media company is the most recent addition to the live streaming industry. Starting less than a year ago in April, 2020, Facebook Gaming and their live streaming app accounted for about 3.4% of all live streaming hours between the same time period previously measured.
Facebook gaming has kickstarted their live streaming platform by paying well-known streamers to stream on their platform and by taking a far lower percentage fees and advertising revenue from their creators.
In a recent video on his YouTube channel, Devin Nash, the former CEO of Counter-Logic Gaming, dissected exactly how much each platform takes from their creators’ earnings. Lets take a look at how the platforms compared:
Facebook Gaming charges the least of all the three platforms by far.
They take 30% of both the ad revenue and the member fees, but take none of the stars ( YT currency used for donations) earned by streamers. Instead, they require the viewer to pay extra for the stars, at a cost of about 14%.
YouTube Gaming charges partners slightly lower rates on ad revenue – 45% down to 30% and take 30% of all Superchats. This feature allows users to ping a specific comment, making it more likely for the streamer to notice it.
Twitch takes the most of all the streaming services. They take 50% of all subscription fees, 30% of all bits (used for donations), and over 90% of all ad revenue. Twitch is able to do this because they have so much market share. If you are a streamer and want to get discovered, you go to Twitch.
What happened to Mixer?
Some of you may have heard of Mixer, Microsofts’ attempt at a live streaming platform. Mixer was launched in 2016 and saw little to no growth during its first two years. In a last ditch effort to save face, they signed two of the biggest streamers on Twitch, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Shroud.
On Twitch, the two averaged over 50,000 average viewers each on Twitch. On Mixer, this number dropped to about 5,000-10,000. In 2020, Mixer announced they were shutting down operations – Ninja and Shroud were free to stream on whichever platform they chose.
So, where did they decide to go?
Interestingly enough, they both chose to return to Twitch. The platform simply offers more exposure (due to mainstream appeal and acceptance) than another other esports streaming platform.
Chinese Streaming Sites
Above are the sites that are most popular in the U.S and Europe, but there are a few other popular streaming sites for those located in Asia.
Huya is the most popular streaming service in China, and here is what they say on their investor relations page about where the company is heading:
“We cooperate with e-sports event organizers, as well as major game developers and publishers, and have developed e-sports live streaming as one of the most popular content genres on our platform. Building on our success in game live streaming, we have also extended our content to other entertainment genres, such as talent shows, anime and outdoor activities.”
Douyu focuses more on mobile content than Huya, but is very similar to the aforementioned site. Here is an excerpt from their investor relations page explaining their take on the site:
“By providing a sustainable streamer development system built on advanced technology infrastructure and capabilities, DouYu helps ensure a consistent supply of quality content. Through collaborations with a variety of participants across the eSports value chain, the Company has gained coveted access to a wide variety of premium eSports content, which further attracts viewers and enhances user experience.”
Yet another Chinese streaming site, Douyu rounds off the final site of the big three streaming sites in China. They introduce the platform on their investor relations page by saying:
“Bilibili represents the iconic brand of online entertainment with a mission to enrich the everyday life of the young generations in China. With our website first launched in June 2009 and officially named ‘‘bilibili’’ in January 2010, we have evolved from a content community inspired by anime, comics and games (ACG) into a full-spectrum online entertainment world covering a wide array of genres and media formats, including videos, live broadcasting and mobile games.”
Esports Streaming Setup for Beginners
So, you want to start streaming, but don’t know where to start. Luckily, we did the research for you, so all you will have to do is follow our streaming setup for beginners guide and you will be able to start live streaming your gameplay to your friends all over the world.
In this guide, we will go step-by-step through the process of learning how to livestream. There are a lot of things you need to know about live streaming, especially what software you will need in order to create overlays and to interact with your viewers.
Esports Streaming Hardware
If you want to live stream your gameplay on sites such as Twitch or YouTube, you will need the proper esports streaming hardware, such as a computer or phone that is able to handle a little more work than it requires to simply play the game. Oftentimes, streamers will have two computers, one for playing the game and another for handling the live stream. If you are just starting to live stream, you can manage with just one!
If you want to use a separate device to record your gameplay from a console (or even PC) you can use a capture card to record your gameplay. The most common types of capture cards are ElGato and the Epiphan Pearl. Both devices capture your gameplay and can upload it seamlessly to a computer so that you can stream.
In addition to your computer, you will need the peripheral hardware required to play games, if that is what you have in mind. This means that you need a mouse and keyboard or a controller, but not necessarily both. Check out Turtle Beach for the best gaming peripherals.
In order for your viewers to be able to see and hear you, you will need to buy a microphone and a webcam. It is possible that your phone or PC has its own webcam, but most streamers prefer their own so that they can have a better picture and control over what is shown in their streaming room, etc..
If you are really interested in starting to live stream, you have probably thought about where you plan to do your live streaming. Many serious streamers, such as Ninja and timthetatman, have their own, custom design rooms specifically built for them to stream in.100 Thieves, the esports/apparel startup located in Los Angeles have streaming booths built into their new $30M headquarters. These booths give gamers all the needed hardware and software needed to stream.
If you do plan to build an entire stream room, there are some extra assets that you should add to your setup.
Additional streaming gear
The esports streaming gear list above are the core requirements you need to start streaming. If you want to make your stream even better, try some of these ideas:
Portable Green Screen – Investing in a portable green screen will allow you to free up more space for your gameplay or put cool effects behind you. Many popular streamers use green screens and paste their webcam footage over some sort of overlay.
Stream Decks allow you to have next-level control over your stream, such as changing scenes to avoid stream-snipers, or alternating between multiple different camera angles.
Stay Hydrated – You may also want to invest in a portable refrigerator to store water and other drinks for you during your stream. It is easy to get dehydrated while gaming and many streamers have beverage fridges in their streaming rooms. Ninja, for example, has a Red Bull mini-fridge in his streaming room.
Esports Streaming Software
Now that you have all of your hardware, what types of programs do you need to run in order to actually be able to start streaming?
You will need to download a program called Streamlabs. This program allows you to connect to your Twitch (or other service) account and immediately begin live streaming to an audience. On Streamlabs, you will be able to update your stream title, which games you are playing, and all of the other details you often see in streamers setups.
You will also receive detailed reports of your streams from Streamlabs, allowing you to track your progress as you grow and to derive insights from your viewer trends. There are many substitute services for Streamlabs, but it is the most well-known live streaming software on the market!
Esports Stream Overlay
If you have ever tuned in to a Twitch stream in the past, you likely noticed a bunch of small pop-ups on the stream. These pop-ups are called overlays. Overlays can be added via Streamlabs, and allow you to broadcast specific information on your stream. This information can be pertinent to your community or the entire world.
Overlays generally track your followers, subscribers, and past donations. More experienced streamers use overlays for other reasons, but this is a good place to start for a beginner.
You can build your own overlays, or you can have someone else make them for you. There is an entire economy for overlays, banners, and other custom stream-related content. Fiverr is the best known website for sourcing high quality overlays and stream materials.
How to Stream a Gaming Tournament
If you want to stream a gaming tournament, there are three steps you need to follow:
- Find a game and get permission from the developer to run a tournament. It is very important to make sure you have permission from the game’s developers before running or even announcing your event.
- Set a prize pool, date and time, rules, and make the tournament announcement on social media and on pages such as toornament.com or challonge.com.
- Begin recruiting players and maybe even start a Discord Server for your event so you can keep it organized. Discord is the best way to communicate with your players as an event organizer, so this is a great way to raise awareness for your event and to make sure all of your players are on the same page.
- Stream your tournament!! Check our guide to esports tournaments here.
Esports streaming revenue
There are lots of ways to make money for streaming, some of which coming directly from the site you are streaming from and others that come from outside sources. Here is a list of the ways you can make money live streaming esports:
Partners on Twitch or YouTube have the ability to make money from the ads that are shown on their streams. The percentage of ad revenue that actually goes to the stream varies between platforms, with Twitch reportedly taking 90% of all ad revenue from their partners.
If you really like a specific streamer on Twitch, you can “subscribe” to them for the month for ad-free viewing and exclusive access to special emotes in the stream chat. These subscriptions auto-renew at the end of the month, and generally begin at $5. The same feature exists on YouTube, however they are referred to as “members”.
Once you have logged enough hours, you will qualify to begin earning donations. Donations can be received in cash, bits, stars, and even crypto. Bits and stars are Twitch’s and YouTube’s own currency for donating to streamers.
Donations are often small, but in some cases can be huge! Mr. Beast rose quickly to fame on YouTube after releasing a series of videos of him donating more than $50,000 to Twitch streamers, some of which had no viewers!
If you are really gaining traction, you might even attract a few companies or brands to sponsor your stream. Oftentimes, these brands will want to run some sort of overlay on your stream to promote their product or service.
These sponsorships pay well, especially as bigger companies move into the esports space. Red Bull, Chipotle, and Grubhub are some examples of brands who sponsor certain streamers. Just this past month, Barstool Sportsbook announced a partnership with NickMercs and the MFAM.
As I mentioned earlier, Mixer made some big news by acquiring Ninja and later Shroud to exclusive, multi-year deals. While Mixer’s attempts to grow may have failed, other streaming services took the same approach and benefitted from their efforts.
Both Twitch, Facebook Gaming and YouTube signed creators to exclusively stream on their platform. YouTube made waves by signing Courage, Typical Gamer, and gaming legend PewDiePie to exclusive contracts.
Twitch struck back by signing Nick Eh 30, A YouTube native, to an exclusive deal on Twitch.
Facebook Gaming signed TeamFight Tactics streamer Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang to an exclusive deal with their platform.
While Ninja and Shroud reportedly made $40M each from their deals with Mixer, it is safe to say some of the other, lesser-known names didn’t make quite as much. Regardless, I am sure they are all pleased with their contracts and the guaranteed money they received for signing.
Singing an exclusive contract with a streaming site is a big deal. If you are looking to really make a name for yourself and your brand, this should be your goal.
Esports streaming stocks
So, you want to make money off of esports streaming on the stock market. Luckily, I have been doing the same thing for the last three years, these are the best stocks to own if you are looking to profit off of esports streaming.
Turtle Beach Corporation (HEAR)
Turtle Beach has been around since the early days of Call of Duty and the rise of multiplayer games. The company specializes in gaming headsets, but has recently ventured further into the esports peripheral space with the acquisition of Roccat, a european company focusing on the production of high-quality keyboards and mice.
Turtle Beach owns approximately 50% of the market share of gaming headsets and offers products at all price ranges: $15-$300. This benefited the company heavily during lockdowns, as the pandemic hit poorer regions more than affluent ones.
Given Turtle Beach’s affordable options, the company saw an insane level of growth during the last year. The stock sat at about $5 last March, and was trading at $35 a few weeks ago. The company recently reported earnings for the quarter, announcing for the first time that they controlled more than half of the market share in the gaming headset market.
Regardless, the stock is down more than 20% today (3/5/21). I believe this is still a great time to buy, as Turtle Beach will continue to grow as a company. They recently acquired another company, Neat Microphones, in an attempt to build headsets for more purposes than simply gaming.
The company also has an outstanding balance sheet. 3 years ago Turtle Beach boasted more than $80M in debt. Today, the company has over $40M in cash reserves and absolutely no debt on their balance sheet! Wow!!
Nvidia Corporation (NVDA)
Nvidia is another great gaming company that saw high levels of growth during the pandemic. Nvidia focuses on the production of high-level graphics cards, however has a long product lineup and affordable options for all types of consumers.
Graphics cards allow your computer to handle higher quality games and to run them more smoothly. This is a big deal if you are streaming a graphics-intensive game, such as Warzone, Apex Legends, or Escape From Tarkov.
Nvidia recently released their 3000 line of GPUs, a major upgrade from the 2000 series which was released back in September, 2018. The 2020 release of the 3000 line was a monumental success. Not only did the GPUs sell out immediately, the release became mainstream news due to aggressive nature of scalpers, who attempted to sell 3080 and 3090 units (the top-line GPUs in the 3000 series) for more than four times their original price.
The 3090 and 3080 lines sold out again in only 30 seconds after the first restock, and continue to be some of the most demanded products in the entire gaming market. The cards are still sold out today.
While the insane demand for Nvidia products is a great sign for the company, their inability to meet this demand is not. Nvidia will hopefully solve this problem in the near future, but the core product of the company is too valuable to not invest in.
In March 2020, NVDA hit a low of $202, and recently hit a high of $613 on February 16th, 2021. Today the stock is trading at about $500. I believe Nvidia is a great stock to own if you want to invest in the future of gaming and esports streaming.
Top Esports Streamers by Platform
As we discussed, there are tons of streamers in the world on multiple different platforms. Here are the most popular streamers on Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming.
Tyler “Ninja” Blevins – Ninja is the most influential member of this list, as he did more to help push gaming into the mainstream than any other streamer or content creator.
Ninja was one of the first to stream Fortnite and ran a child and family friendly stream. This gave him the opportunity to stream to a larger audience than others and made him a staple member of the streaming community.
It also put him in the perfect position to appear on many television shows and talk shows as the face of Fortnite and the Twitch community of streamers. Ninja was named the Esports Streamer of the Year in 2018 and held his own “Ninja Event”at the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas. He also streamed regularly with Drake, Chance the Rapper, JuJu Smith-Schuster and many other famous celebrity gamers.
Turner “Tfue” Tenney – Tfue rose to stardom in the early days of Fortnite as an early member of FaZe Clan. Tfue was arguably the best Fortnite player in the world for much of 2018 and made headlines by suing FaZe for the unfair and deceptive terms used in the three year contract he signed in 2017.
FaZe Clan agreed to release the star after having given him the audience and attention needed for him to blow up. I found this to be an incredibly classy move by FaZe, who deserve much of the credit for noticing Turner and helping him grow.
In 2018, Tfue would regularly stream for more than 100,000 viewers. While streaming the Fortnite World Cup qualifiers in 2018, his stream peaked at more than 300,000 viewers, alluding to the mainstream appeal of the title.
Nick “NickMercs” Kolcheff – Before becoming one of the biggest streamers on Twitch, NickMercs was a competitive Gears of War player and YouTube content creator. He even attempted to join the Navy Seals, but recently admitted on his stream that he only lasted 2 week of Seal training. Two weeks of the toughest training in the world is a lot, and Nick has certainly earned the right to play games for as long as he wishes.
After Seal training Nick went back to streaming and Signed with 100 Thieves, a competitive gaming organization started by Matthew “NadeShot” Haag. Unfortunately, 100T and NickMercs didn’t work out and Nick recently signed with FaZe Clan, where he has stayed for almost a year.
Today, NickMercs is at his absolute peak. He is currently the third-most subscribed streamer on Twitch with more than 55,000 subscribers and regularly streams Call of Duty: Warzone to 60,000 or so viewers.
Here is an updated list of the most subscribed creators on Twitch.
Jack “Courage” Dunlop – Courage got his start in esports as a commentator and was featured as a commentator on many of the early Fortnite tournaments and for the Fortnite World Cup in 2018.
Courage got his start on Twitch streaming Fortnite, but signed an exclusive deal with YouTube in November 2019. This deal worked out very well for Courage, as he has seen more viewers on YouTube than he ever did on Twitch.
Courage is a great fit for YouTube as he produces fun, family-friendly content. YouTube’s audience tends to skew more towards this type of content, explaining his success on the streaming site.
NoahJ456 – More commonly referred to as simply “NoahJ”, this Youtube streamer rose in popularity almost a decade ago and is best know for his Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies content. NoahJ has been a lifelong Youtuber and continues to stream on the platform even though he does not have an exclusive deal on the platform.
Today, NoahJ streams Warzone and Zombies on YouTube to a regular audience of about 15,000 viewers.
Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg – Writing about the most popular YouTube streamers and not mentioning PewDiePie would be a cardinal sin to the gaming gods. PewDiePie is undoubtedly the most popular YouTuber and has more than 109 million subscribers.
He doesn’t stream much, but when he does he generally streams Minecraft or simply talks to his fanbase. PewDiePie received lots of mainstream attention as he raced an Indian television provider, “t-series” in a race to see which creator would be the first to reach 100 million subscribers.
Unfortunately T-series won, but PewDiePie remains the most influential YouTuber ever, having provided entertainment and motivation to millions of people in his tenure with YouTube.
David “Grefg” Martinez- Grefg is one of the most popular Fortnite streamers today and is one of three content creators to receive a custom skin in the game.
He speaks spanish on his stream and recently broke the record for most views on a single Twitch stream with more than 2.4 million concurrent viewers.
Corinna Kopf – Corinna became a popular stream in 2018, playing Fortnite and interacting with her fanbase. She had been featured on David Dobriks YouTube channel in years prior and had a significant following as a member of his squad.
She also began dating Tfue that year and saw her stream viewership rise as a result. She was streaming on Twitch at the time, but relocated to Facebook gaming in December 2019. Today she is streaming Fortnite for an average of 1,500 viewers.
Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang – Disguised Toast is one of the premier streamers of strategy games, such as TeamFight Tactics, Dota Auto chess and tradable card games like Hearthstone and Gods Unchained.
His name, Disguised Toast, can also be heard as “this guy's toast” a clever spin on an already intriguing name.
Toast signed with Facebook Gaming in 2019 and has been a partner ever since. Although he is not allowed to stream games on other streaming sites, he has since returned to Twitch to simply chat with his old audience.
Esports Streams FAQ:
Which gaming streaming platform pays the most?
According to Devin Nash, former head of Counter Logic Gaming and YouTuber, recently released a video on exactly this topic. Unsurprisingly, Facebook Gaming pays the most and Twitch the least.
What is the Esports streamer of the year award?
Every year, esports awards are awarded at the Esports Awards. There are a plethora of categories, with the most important being Streamer of the Year.
How many streamers are there?
According to Twitchtracker.com, there are about 185,000 streamers currently on Twitch. Given Twitch’s market share, I would estimate that there are about 250,000 streamers in the United States and about 1,000,000 in the world, many of which are based outside of the US.
Are there any popular streaming sites based outside the US?
Yes! Streaming is very popular in China and sites such as YY, Houya, and Billibbi.
What's the record for most viewers on a Twitch stream?
The record for concurrent viewers on Twitch was recently broken by TheGrefg, debatably the most popular Fortnite streamer in the world. He broke the record on January 11th, 2021, the day after the release of his custom Fortnite skin.
How much money do top streamers make?
In 2020, each of the top 5 highest grossing streamers made more than $1,000,000 in 2020 – NickMercs led the way with more than $1.7 million earned.
How long does it take to become popular on Twitch?
This depends on the person, but most creators spend about five or so years perfecting their craft before becoming popular on the platform. Many streamers have even admitted to quitting streaming or coming very close before becoming big on the platform.