Remember when there were initial reports about a $1 billion buyout of Twitch from Google? People made a bunch of hasty reactions and jokes about it, while I had more of the “wait and see, let’s not be cynical 24/7” approach. Thankfully, cynicism always has your back, as Twitch announced on its blog several changes to its video on demand (VoD) system.
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First off, Twitch will be modifying their current past broadcast storage system. Due to the fact that they’ve been storing petabytes of VoD’s that go virtually (and sometimes literally) unseen, they will be limiting past livestream broadcasts to 14 days for normal users, with a maximum of 60 days for Turbo subscribers and Twitch Partners. Highlights will be saved indefinitely, however the videos will be limited to 2 hours in length. Past highlights will be chopped up into several parts to make this work.
Before going onto the more egregious update, let’s break this section down first. I understand what those responsible for running Twitch are doing; they’re trying to cut down their waste. Not only will it save tons of bandwidth, but could potentially remove physical server space and help lessen the environmental burden. But the way they’re doing it is not by bolstering or improving the VoD system; they’re just patching over a problem with bandages. It doesn’t address the fact that uploading highlights and broadcasts to Youtube makes more sense. In fact, they even mention that in the blog! From first glance, it’s not just a subtle means of improving the Twitch service, but as an indicator that a Google buyout is all but imminent.
Secondly, there will be changes to music being played in VoD’s. Twitch will be implementing a copyright detection system that mutes copyrighted music in VoD’s only. It will not affect livestreamed audio content, nor will shut down or mute a channel in progress.
In the truest essence, it makes sense to implement it, Youtube involvement or not. At the previous state of VoD usage, Twitch was in violation of copyright law, as indicated in the DMCA. The Act, itself, is archaic, but it’s the company’s responsibility to follow the law. However, as we saw with Youtube and Content ID, it’s a “guilty before proven innocent” system where the algorithm can lock out music content whether there is a legitimate “claim” or breach of rights at all.
What essentially is at the heart of these changes is that the Twitch service has become a great deal more restrictive in the span of one day with two separate updates. They scream of concessions made to appease copyright owners in the same vein that Google essentially rid themselves of almost any responsibility as a company, and seems like it will push viewers and streamers away. But, with a lack of real competition right now, will we see a jump off in viewership in the coming months?
Companies like HitBox hope so.
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