AfreecaTV is often acclaimed for having provided an impetus for the advent and advancement of the private internet broadcast culture. The company has been maintaining its status as the best in its industry, raking in its highest profit yet in the market in the third quarter, until now. With the recent power abuse scandal and BJ exodus, however, things are starting to look grim for AfreecaTV. Though popular, AfreecaTV has been shrouded in constant controversy concerning faulty management ever since its beginnings. Prevalent evaluation was that were it not for the virtue of preemption effects and the lack of competitors, the company would not have been able to retain its position as the leader in its industry. The recent controversy seems to have triggered all discontent towards AfreecaTV accumulated over the years to burst at once; since its onset, Afreeca’s market cap has fallen by more than 46 billion KRW. Although the company has proposed amended policies in response to user complaints, the Afreecan population is yet displeased and controversy persists.
While the future of AfreecaTV remains clouded, similar platforms are proposing better models of broadcast and BJ profit systems, signaling major changes to come in the private broadcasting market landscape. Most notably, Twitch, a live streaming video platform for gamers, has been demonstrating exponential growth in number of active channels and mobile DAU (Daily Active Users) ever since several of Afreeca’s top gaming BJs including "Hongbangjang", "Poongwolryang", and "Yangdding" moved in. According to App Ape Analytics, Twitch’s mobile DAU recorded an average of 40,000 at the start of October but started to draw a sharp upward curve around the 19th, coming to exceed 170,000 by November. Though it would be too hasty to conclude that the growth is due solely to the move of the Afreecan BJs, the fact that the timing of growth coincides with the period in which the BJs started to actively stream in the platform suggests a substantial connection between the two events.
With the rising popularity of the platform, Twitch use in Korea has been expanding in many dimensions. Since the start of October, the number of Korean live stream channels has more than doubled to reach over 500. Genre-diversity is arising as existing Hearthstone-based broadcast categories have broadened to include other popular titles such as League of Legends, World of Warcraft, MineCraft, and Final Fantasy. Even specialized contents like mukbang (eating broadcast), previously only seen in AfreecaTV, are now available on Twitch, thanks to the newly launched ‘Social Eating’ category.
Unlike AfreecaTV’s "star balloon" policy, which charges up to 40% commission, Twitch’s sponsorship policies allow streamers to keep all but 1% of donations. The 1% is taken by Twip, a third party donation platform used for Twitch donations. Along with the sponsorship system, Twitch offers a "subscription" system to streamers in an official partnership with the company. Streamers that have at least three regular broadcast scheduled a week and an average viewer count above a certain level are qualified to apply to be an official partner and receive 4.99 USD per subscription. Thanks to these policies, streamers that moved from AfreecaTV appear to be earning a stable profit—BJ Poongwolryang attracted 20,000 viewers on his first live broadcast as a Twitch streamer, and revealed that he had earned 6.8 million KRW within two hours.
To further Afreeca’s predicament, there is also news about some giants jumping into the game. After leaving AfreecaTV and settling down in YouTube, Daedoseogwan, the main initiator of the BJ exodus, has repeatedly mentioned that YouTube is extremely interested in live streaming and is planning to make major changes and improvements to its streaming services. Viewer reactions to live streaming test runs on YouTube so far have been mostly positive, praising the high video quality and minimal buffering. YouTube is far ahead of AfreecaTV in terms of both funding and technology. If it actually manages to realize a stable profit structure for creators and finds solutions for technical and viewer management issues, the effects on the private broadcast market will be massive. Even Kakao corporation, Korea’s IT giant, has announced that it will integrate its mobile broadcast system "KakaoTV" and Daum’s online broadcast system "Daum tvPot" and introduce a system to provide real-time profits to BJs similar to that of AfreecaTV. The integrated platform is expected to be available by early next year.
With the current shaky status of AfreecaTV, focus is being shifted to alternative platforms that can stand against AfreecaTV’s monopoly in the domestic private broadcasting market. To prevent losing any more users to these new platforms, AfreecaTV will have to take a step back and strive to create fair policies that can benefit both platform and BJs.