October 19, 2016 Jeremy Owens

“Losing Subs”, Gaining Perspective: Understanding Your Sub Count

Whether you just became a Twitch partner, or you’ve been living the ‘sub button’ life for a while now, there is always a number sitting above your head.

This number affects how many custom chat emotes you are allowed, influences your eligibility for front page exposure, determines how much money you make, and may even impact your self-esteem. It is your sub count and it represents the number of active subscriptions to your channel.

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Often referred to as how many subs you have, it may be the most common self-evaluating performance metric among your peer group. Yes, we talk to you about concurrent viewers, followers, and if you talk to me a lot you probably hear terms like “expected concurrency” and “volatility” – but in the end, no single number has more direct impact on your life than your channel’s sub count.

Most likely, you look at your sub count daily or weekly. You may even display your sub count to your community to show how close you are to the next milestone. This number, which you may feel is the fundamental measure of your worth, seems unpredictable at times. Sometimes it goes up consistently for a while, but then it drops and you’re suddenly trying to reach the same goal you told your community you’d reached three weeks ago.

It can be a confusing rollercoaster. Much of this is the result of the language we use to talk about Twitch subscriptions. You heard it first from Twitch, and then the community reinforced it, but ‘sub count’ often does not accurately describe your situation.

No single number has more direct impact on your life than your channel’s sub count

Fundamentally, when someone subscribes to your channel, they are not becoming a long-term subscriber; they are purchasing one month worth of subscriber-level access to premium features. That is the key thing to understand. The language we use creates a strong sentiment that the subscription is a persistent thing. You may feel that when you sell this one month subscription, that you’re adding to a persistent total (similar to gaining followers). That isn’t really the case.

When you think about subscriptions, it is best to view them as individual sales units. Resubs are returning customers, who get an additional perk for not having gaps between purchases. They are still buying individual units from you, even if they buy in bulk or plan for a future purchase. From a sales perspective, they are not different.

Subscriber-level access to "Premium Features"

Subscriber-level access to “Premium Features”

You may be thinking, “but they sign up for automatic renewal!” or “they can buy in larger quantities than one month!” You’re not wrong here, but it doesn’t matter much. Compare a subscription to filling up your gas tank, the kind of magical gas tank that lasts for a whole month before being empty. When you run out of gas, you refill the tank, because you want to keep your vehicle running. Do your viewers have that kind of pressure to refill when a subscription expires? No. Gasoline is a necessity; Twitch channel subscriptions are a luxury. There is only a small amount of pressure to renew a subscription (resub).

You may be wondering what this talk about sales and resubs has to do with your “sub count”. Well, if subscriptions last one month and each purchase is a single unit, your sub count is actually a rolling monthly sales total – how many subs you sold in the last month. Take any 30-day period of time – if you sold 500 subscriptions on the first day of that period and none of the buyers made a subsequent purchase, you earned 500 subscriptions worth of revenue for those sales. If you had been looking at your sub count, on Day 1 you may have gained 500 subs, and then on Day 31 lost them. When you talk about it in terms of a sub count, it appears that something negative happened at the end. That’s not true. Something amazing happened. You sold 500 subscriptions in one day. That’s incredible! All that ever matters is how many subscriptions you sell each day, and every day counts. How many subs did you sell yesterday? How many do you hope to sell today? These are the important questions.

Twitch channel subscriptions are a luxury.

Twitch channel subscriptions are a luxury.

Why then has anyone ever used the term sub count? If all that matters is how many subs you sell each day, why have you been trained to think in terms of sub count? Sub count, as a rolling monthly sales total, can be used to measure consistency. If you are consistently selling the same number of subscriptions each day, your sub count will stay constant. If your daily sales volume is steadily growing, your sub count will be growing as well. Watching the flow of your sub count may help you to notice long-term trends in sales performance. Don’t let yourself get to the point, though, where your sub count is the only thing alerting you to these trends. Focus on each day and sell as many subscriptions (new or repeat) as you can. Think in terms of the positives. Be prepared for your sub count to fall when you had a huge sales day the previous month and are unlikely to repeat it. Take the good when it comes, and carry momentum forward.

You may be one of the many broadcasters who traveled to PAX West or Twitchcon and came home to a low sub count. Many of your peers were depressed and posting on social media about how many subs they lost. Hopefully, armed with the info in this article, you know better.

You didn’t lose anything. You weren’t streaming, and therefore you weren’t actively selling subscriptions.

streamclosedOf course your monthly rolling sales total is lower, because your business was effectively closed. When you got back home, you opened the shop back up and started selling your wares again. Because you know that subscription revenue is about selling subscriptions each day, you’ve been driving those additional sales from linked Amazon Prime accounts and Twitch Prime trials.

You’re riding high, loving the big sales days, but you know that’s all they are. You’re anticipating a sub count drop next month, and you’re already thinking about ways to create similar big sales days in the future. You are prepared, and ready to get back to work.

How many subscriptions will you sell today?