Ever since it was launched in 2011, e-sports streaming specialist Twitch has been free to view. Like other streaming video sites on the web, Twitch has relied on ads as its primary source of monetization. But frankly, no one likes ads, and so the company is rolling out a new premium tier, called Twitch Turbo, which will provide ad-free viewing, as well as a few other features, for $8.99 a month. Turbo users will be able to freely stream all their favorite e-sports events, matches, and tutorials, all without any pre-rolls or overlays. But there are other advantages to being a Turbo user -- most notably, improved chat features. Paying for Turbo means having a whole new set of colors and emoticons to use during chat. They'll also get priority customer support, as well as a badge which recognizes them as a paying subscriber. In an email, Twitch VP of marketing Matt DiPietro wrote that the Turbo offering came after extensive research from users about what features they'd want and what they'd be willing to pay for. Chat was one of the features that users enjoyed and wanted more flexibility around, and the company expects that part of the offer to be popular. Surprisingly enough, there was actually some concern among users surveyed about a reduction in monetization for Twitch broadcasters if ads were stripped out. But DiPietro wrote that its streaming partners will continue to get paid for impressions that come from Turbo users, even if no ads are shown. The new offering comes just a few days after Twitch launched its first in-game broadcasting deployment on a game console -- with a pretty huge partner. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 gamers will now be able to connect their Twitch account and begin instantly streaming from the Xbox, with the same capability coming to Sony PS3 and desktop versions soon. The company, which was spun out of streaming video provider Justin.tv, had raised $15 million from Bessemer Venture Partners last summer. It now claims more than 23 million unique viewers per month, with 6 billion minutes of video viewed in December. Those viewers are tuning into more than 300,000 unique broadcasters and more than 3,000 official partners. And we can expect even more broadcasters soon, as Twitch recently made an SDK available that will make it easier for game publishers to embed Twitch broadcasting tools directly into their games.
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