EA, Disney, NFL Sign Multi-Year Distribution Deal For Madden Esports

TNL Take: It's not even February and we've seen several major announcements related to esports media rights and sports leagues:

Now ESPN/Disney, NFL and EA have signed a multi-year exclusive distribution deal for Madden esports. The deal starts with this past weekend's Madden 18 Club Championship which involved all 32 NFL Club Champions and the upcoming Madden 18 Ultimate League this Spring.

Programming will be shown on numerous channels within ESPN and Disney networks: 

  • ESPNEWS: Madden NFL 18 Club Championship
  • ESPN 2/Deports: Madden NFL 17 Club Championship Finals
  • ESPN2: Ultimate League Championship
  • Disney XD/ESPN VOD: Episodic and shoulder content

The agreement shows that EA Sports and the NFL believe that there's a dearth of content during the NFL offseason and this is one way to engage the audience and potentially bring in younger viewers.

The most recent Madden esports TV program finished #1 for 2017 - however that was shown on The CW which is in more homes. 


Here is the interesting question: For Madden 18, the content is also available digitally via several properties including Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Facebook, Twitter and Mixer.

Will Madden 19 see an exclusive digital partner?

Time will tell.

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?


/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.