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What Effect Could The Unionisation Of Influencers Have On Gaming Content Creators (Inc. Sports Stars)?

What Effect Could The Unionisation Of Influencers Have On Gaming Content Creators (Inc. Sports Stars)?
Wednesday, 31 March 2021 By Joshua Kay

The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG – AFTRA) is a body that represents approximately 160,000 media professionals who produce content across a variety of mediums and platforms.  Recently, they have started to release details about their new standardised template agreement for all “influencer services” delivered by their members (Influencer Agreement)[1]. Despite being a US-only union, SAG-AFTRA has significant influence globally across a number of creative industries so the potential impact of the Influencer Agreement is worth exploring further.

This article will consider how the introduction of the Influencer Agreement could affect one particular demographic of influencer: gaming content creators. At this stage, it is important to draw a distinction between a “streamer” and a “gaming content creator”. Although some streamers may earn money from affiliate programmes, a streamer generally broadcasts themselves playing a game live and tends not to create any non-live supplemental content. A gaming content creator fulfils the same role as a streamer but also produces non-live contextual content around their activity and the game available to their subscribers on demand. For example, SypherPK[2], a well-known Fortnite content creator, streams daily on Twitch but also records videos for his subscribers explaining new features each time a Fortnite update is issued by the creators.  This is a clear example of a content creator going beyond streaming and adding value for his subscribers.

It is now common to see some of the highest profile sporting figures stream or create gaming content for their followers.  To name just a few, Kevin De Bruyne, Mesut Ozil, Neymar, Sergio Aguero and Dele Alli have all recently set up their own Twitch channels. As the number of athletes (including esports athletes) creating gaming content for their fans increases over the next few years, it is important for those individuals (and those that manage them) to understand what could be on the horizon in the gaming content creation world with regards to unionisation. However, it is important to stress that at such an early stage in the implementation of the Influencer Agreement, the main conclusion we can draw at present is to ‘watch this space’. How the SAG-AFTRA proposed changes are received by the influencer community should give us a good indication of how similar proposals may be received in the gaming world in the future.

While this article won’t deal with the current ongoing debate around unionisation in the professional esports industry (this will be dealt with in a separate article), it will cover:

  • the current state of play in the influencer and gaming content creation market;
  • what the SAG-AFTRA Influencer Agreement is aiming to achieve;
  • the scope and potential limitations of the Influencer Agreement;
  • what may happen next; and
  • practical tips for influencers

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About the Author

Joshua Kay

Joshua Kay

Josh is a commercial and regulatory lawyer in Wiggin’s Digital Entertainment team based in London. He is experienced in advising clients across the production and distribution chain in the sports, esports, advertising and games sectors on a range of commercial and regulatory matters including the acquisition, licensing and distribution of content via various digital platforms as well as sponsorship arrangements and data rights issues.

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