Twitch to Cease Operations in South Korea Due to High Operational Costs

Twitch has dropped a bombshell by announcing its decision to terminate operations in South Korea effective February 27. The move is attributed to the excessive operational expenses incurred in navigating one of the globe’s largest esports markets. Twitch CEO Dan Clancy conveyed the company’s disappointment and the distinct challenges encountered in South Korea through an explanatory blog post.

Challenges Stemming from Prohibitive Costs and Legal Battles

Clancy stated that despite undertaking significant initiatives to curtail network costs, conducting business in South Korea persisted as an astronomical tenfold more expensive endeavor than in most other countries. He pointed to the primary culprit being the exorbitant internet fees prevalent in the nation, a contentious issue that has triggered legal confrontations for other streaming service providers. Streaming giant Netflix had also found itself embroiled in an unsuccessful legal dispute last year with a local broadband supplier. Netflix sought to evade payment of usage charges, but the Seoul court sided against them, mandating the streaming giant to contribute to the network costs supporting its considerable Korean operations.

Twitch’s Cost-Cutting Endeavors

In response to the formidable cost challenges, Twitch embarked on a series of experiments to reduce expenses. These initiatives included exploring a peer-to-peer model and downgrading the streaming quality to 720p video resolution. Despite significantly reducing network costs, these measures fell short of establishing a sustainable business model for Twitch in South Korea. Clancy openly acknowledged that the company had been operating at a substantial loss in the country, rendering the prospect of a profitable future untenable.

South Korea’s Dominance in the Esports Arena

South Korea has long held a prominent position in esports, with professional gaming deeply embedded in the nation’s cultural fabric. Esports enjoy widespread popularity, and top players are elevated to celebrity status. With over half of the country’s 50 million population being esports enthusiasts, South Korea has emerged as a dominant force in hosting major tournaments, particularly in games like Starcraft and League of Legends. Twitch had successfully amassed a considerable user base in the country, solidifying its status as one of the preferred streaming platforms.

Expressing Gratitude to the South Korean Community

In his blog post, Clancy underscored the arduous nature of the decision and extended Twitch’s gratitude to the vibrant communities fostered by South Korean users on the platform. He emphasized the distinctive role that Korea plays in the global esports community, recognizing the profound influence of the country’s gaming culture on the international stage.

A Global Trend: Telecom Operators Seeking Compensation

The predicament faced by Twitch in South Korea mirrors a broader trend wherein telecom operators worldwide are increasingly advocating for content providers to bear the brunt of network costs. In India, the second-largest wireless market, telecom operators recommended that internet companies compensate them for utilizing their networks earlier this year. This trend has been partly attributed to regulatory adjustments witnessed in South Korea.

As Twitch initiates the process of winding down its operations in South Korea, the announcement serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate dynamics between content providers and telecom operators. This is particularly relevant in markets where internet fees and network costs wield substantial influence. The repercussions of Twitch’s decision are anticipated to reverberate throughout the esports landscape, impacting the streaming industry and the vibrant gaming communities that have thrived in South Korea.