When you blend two words together to make a new word, you’re creating a portmanteau. For example, when combining the words ‘telephone’ and ‘marathon,’ you get the portmanteau ‘telethon.’ The term ‘subathon’ is a portmanteau as well, mixing the terms ‘subscribe’ and ‘marathon.’

Subathons have become quite popular in the era of streaming. While the term isn’t in the dictionary just yet, it’s a well-known term in streaming communities. In this article, we will define what a subathon is. We’ll also help you get started if you want to host your own subathon.

What is a subathon?

Similar to a telethon — an event on TV where people donate money over the phone for a cause — a subathon’s primary goal is to get people to subscribe to the channel hosting the event. Of course, there needs to be some incentive to get people to subscribe. So, every subscription received adds additional time to the stream. For example, if a streamer is hosting a subathon where one subscription adds 5 seconds to the timer, and they receive 10 subscriptions, 50 seconds are added to the stream’s runtime.

Most streamers host a capped subathon, which means there’s a limit to how long the stream can last. This prevents the stream from going on past the streamer’s comfort zone. However, there are a few brave streamers who have done uncapped subathons. Currently, the streamer GhostInTheMachine holds the record for the longest subathon stream, having streamed for 76 days straight.

Why host a subathon?

While subathons are a lot of work, they are highly effective at driving up subscribers. In 2021, Ludwig Ahgren hosted a 31-day subathon and gained over new 240,000 subscriptions, becoming the most subscribed streamer on Twitch of all time. While not all subathons yield the same success as Ludwig experienced, they will undoubtedly incentivize viewers to subscribe simply because they want to see how long the stream can go.

Image courtesy: Ludwig Ahgren

How to host your own subathon

The key to hosting a great subathon is preparation. While you can, in theory, run a multi-day stream on a whim, we don’t recommend it. Here’s a guide to help you get started.

1. Get organized

Before you start streaming, you need to plan out your subathon. First, decide on where you’re going to stream. If you already have a preferred streaming platform, then use that one. If you’re unsure where to stream, Twitch, YouTube or Facebook are great options.

You also want to install a Subathon Timer. The Subathon Evolved timer works great. You can customize how much time each sub adds to the time and set a limit for how high the time can go. You will need either a Streamlabs or StreamElements account to use it.

2. Market your subathon

Obviously, you want to announce that you’re hosting a subathon in advance. This will give people enough notice and spread the word about your stream. If your stream is gaming-focused, post it into gaming forums. Also, be sure to post on all your social media accounts and mention it a few times on streams leading up to the subathon.

 In other words, leave some public to salivate. Just don’t announce it too far in advance. Otherwise, the hype might die down.

3. Have a target goal

A major problem many streamers run into when hosting a subathon is not having enough content to fill the time. This is understandable, especially if the subathon is a multi-day stream. While you don’t have to map out everything you’re going to do, it would be good to have a few ideas you can fall back on.

4. Figure out what you’ll do during your subathon

Streamer Miyoung’s audience worked hard to make her goal of becoming the most subscriber female streamer on Twitch a reality. That incentive kept the subscriptions coming until the goal was hit. Image courtesy: Miyoung Kim

It never hurts to give your audience more incentives to subscribe. Have a target subscriber goal that will reward your viewers if they hit it. It can be anything from giveaways to challenges, like eating a hot pepper.

6. Stay healthy

While subathons can be great for your channel, they can be physically and mentally draining. Food, water, exercise and sleep are all crucial to your well-being. If you put any of them on the backburner, not only will you feel crummy during your stream, your stream’s content will suffer. People can tell when you’re not engaged.

Having pre-made meals ready or ordering out can work. If you have the means, you can set up a secondary stream location in your kitchen and host an intermission cooking stream.

If you’re doing a multi-day stream, you will need to sleep at some point. Most streamers will set up a bed in the back of their stream room and sleep live on camera. To keep your viewers engaged through the night, you can play music or have your moderators converse through the night.

Good luck!

Subathons are hard work, but with the proper preparation, they are possible. It’s important to know your limits and to start slow. You can always do a single-day subathon and see how it goes. Your health and sanity should always outweigh a few extra subscriptions.