In a nutshell

  • AfreecaTV saw a notable uptick in popularity late 2023, which was attributed to a number of events, including Twitch’s withdrawal from South Korea.
  • AfreecaTV is becoming the new home for many South Korean streamers who were previously affiliated with Twitch.
  • By offering incentives for migration and seamless Twitch integration, AfreecaTV is aggressively attracting South Korean streamers.

The livestreaming scene in South Korea underwent a major change in late 2023 when Twitch announced it was closing its operations in South Korea. Naturally, this left many South Korean Twitch streamers distraught. Their income, Twitch community and career had been uprooted. Some Twitch streamers looked into migrating elsewhere to continue to stream on Twitch. Others went to Twitch’s largest competitor in South Korea, AfreecaTV.

But what is AfreecaTV, and why is it now the top choice for South Korean livestreams? Let’s take a look.

What is AfreecaTV

Often referred to as the Twitch of South Korea, AfreecaTV is a well-known livestreaming service that has become quite popular in the nation’s digital entertainment market. AfreecaTV, founded in 2006, has a substantial audience base thanks to its wide variety of content. The platform hosts streams on gaming, entertainment, lifestyle and more.

Broadcast Jockeys, or BJs for short, is the term used to refer to streamers on the platform. AfreecaTV offers both video game and IRL streamers, much like Twitch.

IRL content usually consists of study sessions, mukbangs, exotic dances and just chatting.

Why is AfreecaTV’s popularity soaring?

While AfreecaTV was popular before, Twitch’s exit from the South Korean market has led to a massive boost in popularity for the platform. Twitch stated in October 2023 that it was ending its operations in South Korea due to competitive challenges and issues adhering to local regulations. South Korean streamers were forced to look for other platforms to support their streaming careers after this decision put them in a difficult situation.

Only a few days after Twitch’s announcement, AfreecaTV saw a sharp rise in viewership. From November 2023 to December 2023, the platform saw a 19.17% increase in site traffic. Ultimately, this is to be expected. AfreecaTV was the second most widely used livestreaming service in South Korea before Twitch’s announcement. So, it’s only natural for streamers to go to the next best option.

AfreecaTV’s appeal and strategic approach

AfreecaTV is taking proactive measures to support new streamers coming from Twitch. The platform moved quickly to take advantage of the opportunity that Twitch’s exit provided.

Most notably, AfreecaTV brought smooth Twitch integration, allowing streamers to easily switch and take advantage of their current viewership. One way that the platform tries to attract streamers is by providing incentives like the highly sought-after “Best BJ” (broadcast jockey) badge, which improves the likelihood that streamers will make money.

The requirements to earn the coveted “Best BJ” badge, which provides streamers with a number of benefits linked to its virtual currency system, have been loosened. AfreecaTV now accepts up to 400 hours of Twitch streaming towards this threshold. In the past, it required creators to stream for more than 500 hours in order to be eligible.

Is AfreecaTV a viable platform for creators?

Although AfreecaTV gives content creators the chance to make money from their streams, its revenue-sharing scheme has drawn criticism. During their streams, viewers purchase and donate “Star Balloons.” One Star Ballon costs about 10 cents. Streamers can cash in their Star Ballons for real cash. However, AfreecaTV takes a large chunk (between 30 to 40%) out of streamers’ earnings. So, streamers can expect to earn about 6 to 7 cents per Star Ballon donation.

Due to AfreecaTV’s large pay cut and lack of ad revenue sharing, only a small portion of streamers on the platform make a sizable living. So most of the streamers on the platform need to look elsewhere for revenue, such as cross-posting on other platforms like YouTube.

Considering YouTube offers more monetization options for streamers than AfreecaTV, why isn’t more widely used for livestreaming? It comes down to reputation. The Korea Herald says that AfreecaTV has been in the livestreaming industry longer in the South Korean market. So while YouTube Gaming might offer more to streamers, AfreecaTV has a tighter grip on the market because it’s been around in South Korea livestreaming market longer.

However, as the Korea Herald points out, more AfreecaTV Korean streamers are looking elsewhere for profit, such as posting videos to YouTube and getting revenue from AdSense. Also, foreign livestreaming platforms like YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming have gained popularity in South Korea in recent years, allowing them to challenge AfreecaTV. And, with Twitch pulling out of the country, these alternative platforms may find more success.

A new start for the platform

Even though AfreecaTV has recently experienced a spike in popularity, its reputation has been tarnished by previous scandals. Broadcasters who have engaged in inappropriate behavior, such as soliciting sexual favors or demeaning individuals with disabilities, have faced scrutiny and outrage. Consequently, AfreecaTV put other disciplinary measures in place and suspended the IDs of the offenders. However, the penalties haven’t been well received by internet users. For example, AfreecaTV BJ Bbanghoony faced backlash for exposing himself on stream. However, his initial six-month suspension was reduced to 30 days, sparking outrage in the community. Many saw this as blatant special treatment for Bbanghoony because of his BJ partner status.

The AfreecaTV brand has faced an overall negative view due to its controversies. However, according to Kore JongAng Daily, an anonymous industry insider claims that the platform will rebrand, changing its name to “SOOP” this year to rid itself of the negative view of its platform. It’s also expected to change its name for currency, star balloons, as well as its names for streamers: BJs.

AfreecaTV is expected to rebrand as SOOP in early 2024.