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Twitch’s new CEO defends job cuts

Dan Clancy, Twitch’s new chief executive officer, has led projects at NASA and Google, and once wanted to look for life on Mars. His new mission is to nurture talent and reduce the losses at Inc.’s livestreaming service.

In his first media interview since taking over last month and eliminating 400 positions among his initial actions, Clancy said the austerity moves were necessary to keep Twitch viable and its creators thriving.

“Those were the right moves to help run this business long term for creators,” Clancy said Wednesday in a phone interview from his home in Washington state. “Ultimately we are here for our creators.”

The platform Clancy has taken over is larger and more culturally relevant than ever. No longer just an online niche for gamers, Twitch hosts 2.4 million viewers watching nearly 96,000 streams at any given time, according to analytics site TwitchTracker.

But with growth comes worries. Creators and employees speaking with Bloomberg have recently expressed concern about Twitch’s direction. Over the last few years, the company rapidly added to its ranks of gamer employees with hires from mainstream tech firms.

After high-profile departures, including in its content arm, Twitch’s top ranks have been dominated by product and engineering-focused executives, as opposed to individuals who worked directly with creators.

Clancy, 59, fits that profile himself. He joined Twitch in 2019 as president, leading engineering and product efforts. A Silicon Valley fixture, he spent more than four years in a similar role at the social site Nextdoor. Before that, he put in nine years at Alphabet Inc.’s Google, including as senior director of research. Over almost five years at NASA, he held research and computer-sciences roles.

He was thrust into the top job at Twitch less than a month ago. His predecessor, Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear, stepped down days before the layoffs after 16 years at the company. They are part of a larger round of cuts at parent Amazon and are aimed at reducing Twitch’s losses.

“Twitch was a tech startup,” Clancy said. “But I think we have a greater focus and clarity that ultimately the product we offer to our viewers is our creators. When a viewer comes to Twitch, they come for the creators, not the service.”

Not a gamer himself, Clancy mostly watches musicians or talk shows on Twitch. He particularly enjoys leftist political commentator Hasan Piker, who has 2.5 million followers of the platform.

“I like the frankness and bluntness,” Clancy said. “He’s comfortable saying what he believes.”

Clancy is adamant that his rise to CEO doesn’t mark any transformation of Twitch. Pointing to his double major in theater and computer science, he sees himself just as much an advocate for creators as for technology.

“There’s a whole other part of my life where I’m more on the creative side,” he said.

Nonetheless, he takes over at a time when Twitch’s finances are getting more scrutiny. In 2022, the company reduced its top creators’ share of subscription revenue to 50% from 70%, prompting a backlash. Twitch has also newly emphasized ads, which creators complain interrupt the livestreaming experience.

To help creators, some of whom make six- or seven-figure incomes from subscriptions and donations, Clancy’s goal is to “enhance the sponsorship relationships they already have.”

After creators build their communities’ size and trust, Clancy wants to introduce products that can help brands get more value from the service and increase the income of creators. Once such “focus area” is improving the quality of advertising.

“It’s about growing the pie,” he said.

Recently, Clancy has been meeting with Twitch streamers to discuss the platform’s direction. He will soon visit with conservationist and Twitch creator Maya Higa at her Austin, Texas, exotic animal sanctuary, which she funded with money from her livestream.

Operating an international livestreaming service is expensive, Twitch executives have told Bloomberg. Asked whether Twitch will ever become profitable, Clancy said “It looks very good that our business is a long-term sustainable business.”

Despite growing competition from ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok and Google’s YouTube, Twitch remains dominant in game livestreaming. Clancy credits the company’s focus on community.

“People aren’t just leaving comments and logging off,” he said. “They’re interacting in a live, synchronous fashion. This is very different from a platform like TikTok.”

He also believes that the more people are exposed to livestreaming through TikTok, YouTube or Meta Platform Inc.’s Instagram, the more they will eventually come to Twitch.

“We give a stage to all of our creators,” he said, “where it’s their stage and they’re engaging with their audience.” Bloomberg

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