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Facebook introducing monetization for gaming streamers in new pilot program

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It’s not a Twitch killer yet.

Russia backed Facebook material reached over 126 million Americans Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is introducing a new monetization system for game streamers as it attempts to hop into the ring with YouTube and Twitch.

Facebook is “actively exploring ways for fans to back their favorite gaming creators via payments during select livestreams on Facebook,” a press release reads.

“Based on the results of our initial tests, we’ll expand our fan support monetization initiatives to more gaming creators, including participants in our initial pilot program.”

The company’s initial efforts into monetization will look more like traditional tipping than anything from Twitch and YouTube. Viewers who want to support a streamer can leave a tip as they watch, but Facebook isn’t introducing a specific ad-platform, like Google’s AdSense, or subscribers right now. That may change in the coming months, however, as Facebook’s new Gaming Creator Pilot program launches.

Guy Cross, Facebook’s head of games partnerships for North America, told Polygon that monetization played an important part in ensuring creators involved in the pilot program would be able to fund their efforts. While creators will be able to instill some ads through Facebook’s ad program, the company is trying to encourage direct fan support from people tuning in for streams.

“We expect to try out other monetization services in addition to those down the road,” Cross said. “When it comes to our video platform, we’re entering partnerships where we’re paying our partners to deliver content and help us see the ecosystem and test to see what type of content plays to their strengths. The real plan, over the long haul, is to have these other monetization services take lift and provide these sustainable growth opportunities these creators and publishers will depend upon for the long run.”

Streaming is a big part of Facebook’s new Game Creator Pilot program. The company says streams will be able to run at 60fps and maintain a resolution of 1080p. Adding in different monetization methods is a way to ensure that creators want to stay on Facebook, but where the company thrives (its daily active user count is over one billion people), there are some challenges. Unlike Twitch and YouTube, which have defined themselves by providing stable platforms for streamers and creators, along with viable monetization methods, Facebook is still figuring it out.

Cross said the goal is to find creators who will “represent a wide variety of genres” as that “reflects the diversity in our community,” but Facebook isn’t actively trying to convince top talent to leave Twitch and YouTube to stream exclusively on Facebook.

“We’re trying to establish a really healthy creator ecosystem on Facebook,” Cross said.

Perhaps most interestingly, that means Facebook is looking into doing something that YouTube and Twitch have failed at time and time again: moderation. Cross said only creators chosen to work within the pilot program will be able to monetize their content, and Facebook is in no rush to let thousands of creators in at once.

“We’re trying to figure out how we build a system that helps us scale support and manage these parties effectively so that they have a great experience working with Facebook and so our audience on Facebook,” Cross said. “One of the key things we’re going to make sure of is that creators who come onto our platform are adhering to our standards.

“We aren’t opening the floodgates; we want to be very careful with who we choose. We have learned from other platforms, and we do want to bring what’s special to Facebook.”

Cross acknowledges Facebook has plenty to learn, adding the company is taking a hand-in-hand approach with creators to figuring everything out. The goal is to work with veteran streamers who can help Facebook decipher what they’re doing wrong and what’s working; whether this is a scalable platform or not.

“It’s not that we have everything figured out and we’re only going to go in one direction,” Cross said. “We’re going to be very thoughtful of that, as we do have a lot to learn.”

John Imah, head of creators at Facebook, said it’s important to the company that they’re transparent with creators. Imah said Facebook hasn’t approached any creator giving them a hard sell on the platform, but is working with those streamers to figure out what advantages Facebook provides over other platforms, and how they can accentuate those features.

“They generally want to work with Facebook and see the opportunity of making things that could potentially spawn into something else for them,” Imah said. “There is an all around excitement.”

The question is whether Facebook can be a viable competitor to Twitch and YouTube. Cross said Facebook has never welcomed creators to the platform in a way that promotes growth, and the company wants to see if it can provide a new home for creators. Working with the engineering team to ensure streams are discoverable and highlighted on the site is a big advantage for creators looking for massive audiences who aren’t on Twitch and YouTube, but as of right now, Facebook isn’t a direct competitor.

For the first time since it’s launch, Facebook is the underdog, but may not be forever.

Creators interested in applying for the pilot program can do so on Facebook’s gaming page.