The Danger of Building on Rented Land

If control over your brand and reputation are crucial, make sure you’ve carefully balanced the pros and the cons before building on rented land.

What follows is a cautionary tale of what happened to the world’s most influential Fortnite streamer.

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Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, an American social media personality who has a net worth of $15 million, left the Twitch streaming platform in favour of Microsoft’s Mixer in the beginning of August 2019.

Twitch is the biggest streaming platform on the internet, claiming 72% of all hours watched. Mixer, by comparison, owns 3%.

Now, I’m not digging into the reasons why Ninja left, or if Mixer is better than Twitch or whatever.

Both are platforms where, in exchange for technology and exposure, users give up a lot of control. They build their brand and reputation on ‘rented land’, so to speak.

Mostly, the exchange is fair. It is hard to grow a following. Getting exposure on a platform with millions of eyeballs already hungrily ogling the next big thing, is easier than on your own turf.

However it can go awry. As it did for Ninja. Soon after he made his move to Mixer, Twitch replaced the content on his page - which has 14.7 million followers - to show a list of other Fortnite streamers.

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This is unusual. When a streamer leaves Twitch, their page is always left intact, showing saved videos and clips from past streams. Not for Ninja though.

Adding insult to injury, a channel that somehow managed to stream pornographic content on the Fortnite tag, ended up as a first recommendation on Ninja’s old page.

So, Twitch effectively killed Ninja’s work of building a kid-friendly brand over the 8 (eight!) years he was streaming on Twitch…

In a video which has been viewed more than four million times, Ninja said he was "disgusted and so sorry".

"As you guys know I'm streaming on Mixer now," he said. "There was a porn account which was number one being recommended on my channel. And I have no say in any of this stuff. So for anyone who saw that, for anyone whose kids saw that, I apologise, and I'm sorry."

Profound apologies from Twitch followed and Ninja’s homepage was restored.

Still: if control over your brand and reputation are crucial, you might want to think twice before building on rented land.

Anabel De Vetter