Twitch vs. YouTube Streaming: What's the Difference?

What you need to know about these two streaming platforms

If you're looking to get into streaming games or personal projects live for an internet audience, two of the main options you have are Twitch and YouTube. Both offer the same basic functionality, but they have some key differences that may affect which you choose. We've looked at some of the key features of both to help you decide.

Twitch vs YouTube streaming
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Overall Findings

Twitch
  • Focus on gaming, but other categories are available.

  • The only content on your channel relates to streaming.

  • Make money through Bits, subscriptions, direct donations, and ads.

  • Free to use, but some features are locked behind "Affiliate" or "Partner" status.

YouTube
  • You can livestream (almost) anything you want.

  • Exists alongside produced content on your channel.

  • Make money from "Super Chats," memberships, and ads.

  • Free to use; status affects monetization.

The platform you choose depends on what your goals are for streaming. If you're brand-new to creating online videos, they're just about equal choices. But people who have already created a YouTube channel may be better off sticking with that platform to build on their existing audience instead of starting over completely.

Both Twitch and YouTube provide opportunities for you to make money from your stream. In most cases, these features involve sharing a cut with the platform provider. Twitch has a slight advantage by including direct donations, which let users keep more of the money that their viewers throw their way.

Content Creation: YouTube Has More Variety

Twitch
  • Your channel contains streams, clips, and archived videos.

YouTube
  • Your channel can contain streams and more produced content.

If you aren't just interested in streaming, YouTube might be a better pick. Along with placing recordings of your streams on your channel, you can also include previously made and more polished videos to help bring even more people to your channel.

On Twitch, your audience is based on how interested people are in your stream. But on YouTube, you can build up an audience from non-live content and possibly bring more people to your stream when you do.

Discovery: YouTube Is More Streamer-Friendly, and Twitch is More User-Friendly

Twitch
  • Browse based on game titles or topics.

  • Platform is mostly gaming themed.

  • Ability to follow your favorite channels.

  • Some features are locked behind "Partner" and "Affiliate" statuses.

YouTube
  • Search results cover all kinds of content, live or otherwise.

  • Channel subscribers can find your stream easily.

  • Some features locked behind the Partner Program.

If you're a viewer looking for something to watch, Twitch is slightly easier to use. Visitors can browse by specific game titles and receive notifications when their favorite streamers go live. YouTube provides an option for you to receive a notification when a livestream starts, but it requires going to the stream's specific URL and clicking a button to get the alert.

On the streamer side, however, YouTube may have an edge. Because Twitch has always been more gaming-focused, it doesn't quite have the structure set up for other types of content. The service has added general categories like "Creative," "Music," and "IRL," but those areas are less specific than the original, game-title system. If you aren't streaming a game, it may be harder for viewers to find your channel. YouTube viewers are used to having all kinds of content available, so the search function will help you more there.

For basic users, Twitch archives streams for 14 days. If you don't download the video in that time, the site deletes it. You can increase this grace period up to 60 days by earning the "Partner" status. Other premium features on Twitch include custom emotes for chat, polls, and priority customer service.

On YouTube, the recording of your livestream goes directly to your channel once you stop broadcasting, and it will stay there without you having to do anything. You must join YouTube's Partner Program to monetize your channel, but other than that, all users have access to the same features.

Monetization: Twitch's Donations Have a Slight Advantage

Twitch
  • You can make money from ads, Bits, direct donations, and subscriptions.

  • Twitch takes a cut on most income.

  • Monetization requires Affiliate or Partner status.

YouTube
  • Make money from ads, memberships, and Super Chats.

  • YouTube takes a cut from most income.

  • Monetization requires YouTube Partner status.

To use official forms of monetization, including ads and chat-based rewards, your channel on either platform must reach a certain level of popularity. For example, to achieve Twitch Affiliate status, you must have at least 50 followers and, in a single month, stream 500 minutes over at least seven different days while keeping an average of three concurrent viewers. To reach Partner status, the requirements are even higher.

YouTube has a single, equally important tier: the YouTube Partner Program. To join that, people must have watched at least 4,000 hours of your content over the past year, and you need 1,000 subscribers or more.

In both cases, you must hit these benchmarks to officially monetize your channel and use ads, Twitch's Bits/YouTube's Super Chats, and channel memberships to make money. But where Twitch comes out a little ahead is its support of direct donations to streamers from viewers. With this feature, people watching your stream can send you money without you having to be an Affiliate or Partner.

Final Verdict

Both platforms provide a quick and easy way to broadcast your gaming or creative activities, but YouTube has a couple distinct advantages. It doesn't lock as many features behind its Partner Program as Twitch does behind its Affiliate and Partner tiers. It also lets you include standalone, produced content to supplement the broadcasts on your channel.

Both have similar monetization systems, and neither of them make these available to new broadcasters. But Twitch closes the gap considerably by allowing direct donations.