Facebook's Exclusive ESL Deal Is About Media Rights

TNL Take: Going back to June 2016, we've said the biggest threat to Twitch in live esports was Facebook instead of YouTube. We even analyzed Youtube and Twitch directly stating the formers dominance in all things VOD.

Since Facebook entered the esports space, they've done a slew of content deals including:

That's plenty of inroads over the past 18 months.

Now Facebook is stepping it up further with another exclusive partnership with ESL - this time bringing content that previously lived on YouTube. The partnership includes:

  • ESL One and CS:GO Pro League, which begins in February and an exclusive for 4 seasons till December 2019
  • The first event will be ESL One Genting 2018 that begins this week
  • Other events include ESL One Katowice 2018 and ESL One Cologne 2018 
  • ESL will also produce a weekly show for "Facebook Watch"

 

Let's be clear, this deal is primarily about 1 thing: Minimum Guarantee for broadcast rights that Facebook would pay ESL. While probably nowhere close to BAMTech/Riot Games ($40M+/year) or the reported Overwatch League figure ($45M/year), it's enough that would warrant any drop in viewership or ad revenue. Facebook even recently announced the hiring of Eurosport head Peter Hutton to spearhead their sports rights initiative.

 

What else can Facebook bring to the table that helps ESL?

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/01 SCALE: Facebook hit 2 Billion monthly users by the end of Q2 2017. Over half of those users are daily. Which also leads to...

/02 MOBILE: 85% of Facebook's revenues comes from Mobile. As the rest of the world comes online, this is how they're going to access content - not via a PC or console. 

/03 MONETIZATION: Ads, Donations, Subscriptions, Virtual Currency, Sponsorships, Influencer Campaigns - the list goes on.

/04 VR: As VR eventually gathers more audience and others are trying to build VR platforms on top of Twitch or create separate ones, Facebook already has the hardware end with Oculus. From both playing and viewing, the experience potential is endless.

/05 Facebook Watch: Facebook is clearly trying to get as much content for Facebook Watch as possible. Now Facebook Watch allows you to view together with your friends - the social glue that allows engagement with your followers vs. a firehose of viewers,

 

While the viewership numbers may not be Twitch/YouTube levels at the beginning, there is more to this deal than viewership.

How Did Overwatch League Viewership Perform In Week 1?

TNL Take: It's only Week 1. It's only Week 1. It's only Week 1.

Repeat as necessary.

With so much money and hype riding on Overwatch League, how exactly did Week 1 perform from a viewership perspective?

Again, this doesn't take into account a slew of other Overwatch League monetization options like merchandise or in-game team skins but viewership only using the following methodology:

  • Twitch English stream for comparison
  • 2 Twitch viewership data sources (TwitchTracker and Waypoint Media)
  • Average Concurrent Viewership not Peak/Max
Overwatch League Week 1 Twitch Viewership (Chart: The Next Level)

Overwatch League Week 1 Twitch Viewership (Chart: The Next Level)

Again, it's only Week 1 so don't build a complex financial model on 4 data points but some potential insight:

  • Day 1: Saw some significant viewership with 300K+ concurrent viewers however will be difficult to maintain those numbers across the regular season
  • Day 4: With increased competition from other esports events and the NFL Playoffs, the average concurrent viewership had dropped to half of Day 1
  • With another few weeks of data, we'll be able to see if OWL can maintain their 150,000 concurrent viewership for the rest of the way - which would be good for the inaugural season

What gets really interesting is when you layer the next major esports event against Overwatch League.

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  • Day 3: With the start of ELEAGUE's Boston event, there may have been some migration of viewers from Overwatch to Counter-Strike
  • ELEAGUE performed well head-to-head considering the numerous hours that they were live

This is very early and will good to gauge other esports events for comparison as OWL moves through its season.

Week 2 will have an even bigger test for Overwatch League however with the start of the other franchised league - North America League of Legends this weekend.

Twitch Top 10 Week Of Oct 23rd: Tournaments Galore

TWITCH TOP 10 WEEK OF OCT 23RD: TOURNAMENTS GALORE

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By Feature Writer Jordan Fragen

 

TNL Take: It’s that time of the week once again. Welcome to our breakdown of the stories behind this past week’s top 10 games on Twitch. 

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Waypoint Media is the leader in Esports and gaming audience data. They support clients like Nielsen and Twitch in their efforts to understand the Esports audience. Reach them at info@waypointmedia.com.


This week was stuffed to the brim for esports fans. Beyond the penultimate weekend of the League of Legends World Championship, both CS:GO’s EPICENTER and DotA 2’s ESL ONE Hamburg took place; and these tournaments secured these games 1st, 3rd, and 4th respectively on our list. Let’s take a look at each one individually to provide a bit more context.

 

LEAGUE OF LEGENDS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2017

Poor China. Despite hosting the tournament and the fans cheering hard for their hometown teams, both RNG and Team WE fell to the Korean juggernauts.

While League took the top spot in dominant fashion, the numbers did fall compared to the previous week. Total hours watched fell by 15%, unique viewers by 2% and viewer hours per unique by 12%. Some of this can probably be linked to fewer matches being played and the resulting shorter broadcasts from Riot.

The 5% increase in peak viewership from last week supports this theory. One way Riot could address this next year is to hold both semifinals matches on the same day to better concentrate viewership, but for obvious reasons ticket sales would suffer. We’ll see next year how they chooses to address this.

 

COUNTER-STRIKE: EPICENTER

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive remains a unique game in the world of esports. Unlike MOBAs and Real-Time Strategy games, CSGO’s dominant teams tend to hail from Europe and more recently Brazil. EPICENTER perfectly encapsulated this regionality both in the teams who played and the location of the tournament itself. Held in St. Petersberg, the tournament was dominated by the excellence of European and CIS teams... with one major exception.

Since 2015, the SK Gaming roster has paved the way for a Brazilian renaissance in Counter-Strike. Lead by the legendary FalleN, the team took the tournament in a close match with Virtus.Pro. Along with their victory, SK also claimed the #1 spot on HLTV’s widely used CSGO rankings, making them the current #1 team in the world.

This tournament drastically improved CS:GO’s numbers compared to last week. Viewer Hours increased by 110%, Average Concurrents by 122%, and Peak Concurrents by a whopping 300%.

This is not only due to a larger audience from last week (Unique Viewers increased by 22%) but each of these viewers also watched 75 minutes more on average. This shows the power of esports to concentrate and drive viewers to tune in.

 

ESL ONE HAMBURG

In earlier years, DotA 2 has struggled to maintain interest leading up to the International each July. Despite insane viewership and prize money each July, a dearth of tournaments leading up to it often created confusion for casual viewers and instability for players. Valve aims to change that this year with the Pro Circuit and ESL One was the first of the 11 planned majors.

Despite falling from 4th last week, DotA 2’s numbers are up. Viewer Hours Increased by 20%, Average Concurrents by 25%, and Peak Concurrents by 46%. Similar to CS:GO some of this is due to a larger number of viewers tuning in (Uniques were up by 8%) and each of those viewers tuning in for an additional 27 minutes on average.

However, perhaps the largest success of the tournament was its effective sponsorship integration. Mercedes Benz was the headline sponsor for the tournament and brands and agencies should take note: This is a perfect case study on how to correctly sponsor an epsorts tournament.

The execution was phenomenal for being both logical and on-brand. Beyond customizing a car for each team (that they could use for the weekend) and elaborate intro videos prominently featuring their product, Mercedes also allowed fans to vote via Twitter DM for their tournament MVP. Virtus.pro’s Solo ended up taking home the vote and a brand new Mercedes worth $50K.

The Auto category has grown astronomically in 2017 and this showcases exactly why.

 

WARFRAME SHOWS THE POWER OF COMMUNITY DRIVEN PROMOTION

Quick flashback to last week: Out of nowhere, Warframe rocketed to 7th on the rankings. The game’s Plains of Eidolon expansion was released and publisher Digital Extreme looked to reward fans for tuning into their favorite streamers with in-game loot. We contrasted this with South Park who adopted the more straight forward strategy of sponsoring Twitch’s Top talent to play the game.

Guess which of these two games managed to stay on the list?

While Warframe certainly had the advantage of a dedicated fanbase, the company’s promo certainly appears to have helped keep fans interested. While the number are down from last week (about a 5% drop for Viewer Hours, Hours Streamed and Average Concurrents, 36% for Peak Concurrents, and 42% fewer Unique Viewers), this is likely due to more casual fans dropping off. However, the dedication among the hard core fanbase shows; on average viewers watched almost 2 hours more than last week.


 

BINGE WATCHING TAKES A WHOLE NEW MEANING ON TWITCH

This past week, Twitch began a two week long marathon showing all 236 episodes of Yugioh. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the late '90's/early 00’s, Yuigoh is an anime based on a trading card game that ran for 236 episodes. It never reached the massive popularity of Pokémon, although it definitely tried. The english dub was made by the same company and it has reached a level of meme-ery unlike almost any series.

Twitch is known for its experimentation and in July it ran its first anime marathon which was a huge success. Love it or hate it, the real time reactions of Twitch Chat make viewing non-interactive media like TV-shows a community experience.

But the only thing Twitch chat likes more than being hyper reactive is memes.

From the over-the-top voice acting and the terrible game play decisions of the protagonist, Twitch chat fully embraced the silliness of this 90s classic. Reaching 525K viewers for an average of 3 hours each, the marathon managed to take the 10th spot on the list.

For brands looking to get into esports, understanding the humor and tastes of Twitch are of the utmost importance. Anime plays a critical role in these tastes and the industry has taken note. The two largest OTT services for anime already sponsor teams Cloud9 and Panda Global.

Consider tuning into the second half of the marathon this week to get a glimpse for yourself.

Twitch Top 10 Week of Oct 15th: League of Legends Remains On Top

TWITCH TOP 10 WEEK OF OCT 15TH: LEAGUE OF LEGENDS REMAINS ON TOP

Twitch Top 10 Week of Oct 15th: League of Legends Remains On Top (Photo: Riot Games)

Twitch Top 10 Week of Oct 15th: League of Legends Remains On Top (Photo: Riot Games)

By Feature Writer Jordan Fragen

 

TNL Take: Welcome back.  Without further ado, let’s get right into this past week's Top 10 Games on Twitch.

Twitch Top 10: Week Of October 15th (Graphic: Waypoint Media)

Twitch Top 10: Week Of October 15th (Graphic: Waypoint Media)

Waypoint Media is the leader in Esports and gaming audience data. They support clients like Nielsen and Twitch in their efforts to understand the Esports audience. Reach them at info@waypointmedia.com.


League of Legends Tops The Charts Again

All eyes were back on League of Legends this week as the knockout stage began at the 2017 World Championships. Worlds has never been a particularly exuberant time for NA and EU fans as their teams struggle to match the skill of their Korean and Chinese counterparts.

The match that took place between EU based Misfits and South Korean powerhouse SKT1 (who have won 3 of the last 4 years) in the early morning hours of October 20th was widely regarded to be the best match of the tournament so far. SKT1 ended up taking the set, but there appears to be a bright future for this young EU Misfits roster. However, none of the EU or NA teams will advance to the semifinals so prepare yourself for the ultimate showdowns between the best teams from the only parts of the world that excel at League of Legends  South Korea and China.

But let’s take a look at the numbers. Did you think that League of Legends did well last week?

You haven’t seen anything yet.

While the Viewer Hours, Hours Streamed and Average Concurrents remained relatively similar to last week (not a surprise considering this looks at aggregated data), the Maximum Concurrent Viewers peaked at almost 840K.

That’s an increase of 64% from last week.

Think the growth is just due to the increased quality of matches? Guess again. Compared to the first week of the Knockout stage in 2016, Peak Concurrent Viewership increased 36% and Unique Viewers increased 43%.

League of Legends is still thriving and I can only assume next week will tell a tale of continued success. Be sure to check back here next week for more info.

 

South Park and Warframe Outdo Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

South Park: The Fractured by Whole follows 2014's The Stick of Truth (Photo: Ubisoft)

South Park: The Fractured by Whole follows 2014's The Stick of Truth (Photo: Ubisoft)

Ubisoft’s latest entry into their South Park series and the latest expansion for Digital Extreme’s Warframe both dropped this week.

However both outperformed Valve’s mainstay Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Let’s take a look a both of these games individually.

South Park’s success may not be a total shock. However, what probably pushed it to 6th was the large number of sponsored high-profile streams that took place. Many of Twitch’s top streamers such as lirik, Joshog, timthetatman, dansgaming, and forsenlol (all in the top 100 most followed on the site) streamed the game. This also likely took hours from CS:GO as all of these streamers are known to play CS:GO too. In all, it appears that Ubisoft’s marketing budget went to good use.

However, this does not appear to be the case for Warframe. Originally released in 2013-2014 depending on your platform of choice, the game’s latest expansion Plains of Eidolon dropped on Friday, October 13th. But Digital Extreme’s marketing strategy was much more community oriented, which makes sense given the game’s online cooperative nature. For the first two weeks after launch, the publisher plans to reward players for watching streams of the game with free loot.

Marketing strategy aside, it will be interesting to see if CS:GO's numbers recover next week.