Twitch Top 10: Week of December 11th

By Feature Writer Jordan Fragen

TNL Take: Welcome back! This is The Next Level’s take behind the key storylines behind the Top 10 Games on Twitch. Last week we looked at the reasons why fans flocked back to PUBG, the explosive growth in Hearthstone viewers after the release of the game’s latest expansion, and how CWL launched Call of Duty: WWII back into the top 10 for the first week since it launched in November.

Now, let’s explore the top headlines from the week of December 11th through the 17th.

Twitch Top 10 Week of Dec 11th: DotA 2, Overwatch and PUBG (Chart: Waypoint Media)

Twitch Top 10 Week of Dec 11th: DotA 2, Overwatch and PUBG (Chart: Waypoint Media)

Thank you once again to our data partner, Waypoint Media. They are the leader in esports and gaming audience data. They support clients like Nielsen in their efforts to understand the esports audience. Reach them at info@waypointmedia.com.


You Can Thank One of the Most Unique Tournaments in Esports for Dota 2’s Rise

Behind the scenes at the 8th Dota 2 Summit (Photo: Beyond the Summit)

Behind the scenes at the 8th Dota 2 Summit (Photo: Beyond the Summit)

Dota 2’s community continues to be one of the most unique in esports. Despite the attention the International brings every July, the game tends to remain in League of Legends’ shadow for the rest of the year, particularly when it comes to viewership on Twitch. It also remains uniquely dominated by international viewership as we pointed out in a previous Twitch Top 10.

However, this week saw a modest rise in hours and placement for Valve’s MOBA. Compared to the previous week, Dota 2 saw a 6% increase in Total Hours Watched and moved up a place. More importantly, there was a 231% increase in Peak Viewership and an 85% increase in Unique Viewers reached from last week.

So where did this influx of new viewers come from?

This weekend saw the 8th installment of the DOTA Summit from organizers Beyond the Summit. Rather than mimic the glitz and stadium-filling crowds esports has grown used to, BtS bucks this trend and instead holds all of their tournaments in a house with all players sleeping over. The goofiness doesn’t stop there. In addition to hard hitting esports action, fans are treated to skits and board games featuring their favorite players.

This unique take on an esports tournament serves to better humanize the players and show of their personalities. The numbers add support to this, showing the power this format has to draw in casual fans.

 

Overwatch Draws Fans Back After the Preseason Exodus

Overwatch League's Preseason drew viewers to Activision-Blizzard owned MLG.tv (Photo: OWL)

Overwatch League's Preseason drew viewers to Activision-Blizzard owned MLG.tv (Photo: OWL)

In a move that surprised almost no one, Blizzard has decided to remain protective of the Overwatch League and only air OWL games on Activision-Blizzard owned MLG.tv for the preseason. While this move makes tracking accurate data for the preseason games (and presumably the season once it starts) difficult, we can extrapolate how successful Blizzard was in migrating the audience over to its other platforms based on this week’s Twitch data.

Compared to last week, Overwatch saw a 21% increase in Total Hours Watched, a 12% increase in Hours Streamed, a stunning 325% increase in peak concurrents, a 110% increase in Unique viewers and a marginal 4% increase in hours consumed per unique viewer. The only stat that fell was average concurrent viewers (a drop of 43%) presumably due to viewers spreading out their viewing across multiple channels.

While it will be difficult to quantify just how many viewers Blizzard managed to drive to MLG.tv, the trends clearly point to a massive surge in viewership back to Twitch now that there is a lull in OWL content.

 

PUBG’s Biggest Star is Taking a Break. Has His Absence Affected Viewership?

Dr. Disrespect's Indefinite Absence Could Have Lasting Consequences on PUBG Viewership (Photo: Aftonbladet)

Dr. Disrespect's Indefinite Absence Could Have Lasting Consequences on PUBG Viewership (Photo: Aftonbladet)

Last week, PUBG managed to reclaim some of its dominance in the Battle Royale genre. With newcommer Fortnite looking to innovate in the nascent genre, PUBG needed new content to reignite viewer interest.

With the new desert map and the soft launch onto Xbox One, PUBG managed to reclaim some ground in the on-going Battle Royale war. However, fans were hit with a bombshell this week that could see long lasting consequences in Twitch viewership.

Dr. Disrespect shocked fans this week by streaming out of character, admitting to marital infidelity and announcing a break from streaming to work on these problems.

With the game’s biggest star out of the running, how did it affect PUBG’s viewership?

PUBG saw a 16% decrease in Total Hours Watched this week but saw a huge increase of 69% in Unique Viewers Reached. While Shroud continues to be the go-to streamer for PUBG, Dr. Disrespect drove over 400K Hours watched and over 690K unique viewers.

 

So for now, the answer seems to be no but next week will more accurately foreshadow the impact of the Doc’s absence from the scene.

The Next Level Joins Nielsen's eSports Advisory Board

THE NEXT LEVEL JOINS NIELSEN'S ESPORTS ADVISORY BOARD

The Next Level Joins Nielsen's eSports Advisory Board (Photo: Nielsen)

The Next Level Joins Nielsen's eSports Advisory Board (Photo: Nielsen)

I'm thrilled to announce that The Next Level has joined Nielsen's newly launched eSports advisory board as part of Nielsen Esports to provide insight on audience measurement and validation.

-Manny Anekal

The list of advisory board members:

  • ESL
  • ESPN
  • Facebook
  • FIFA
  • Google YouTube
  • Major League Gaming/Activision Blizzard
  • NBA 2K eLeague
  • Sony PlayStation
  • The Next Level
  • Turner
  • Twitch
  • Twitter
  • Unilever

Nielsen today announced the launch of Nielsen Esports, a new business vertical focused on competitive gaming that will leverage the company’s expertise and leadership in media consumption and valuation. Nielsen Esports will provide sponsorship valuation, fan insights, custom industry research and consulting services to rights holders, media platforms and brands around the world that are moving this fast-growing market forward.

Esports has experienced massive global growth over the past few years with major investment from blue chip sponsors, game publishers and media companies, as well as sports leagues and teams. The esports fan base is also rapidly expanding with nearly one in three fans beginning to follow esports just within the past year, according to new Nielsen Esports research.

“There’s a high demand for reliable, independent measurement of value in esports,” said Howard Appelbaum, President, Nielsen Entertainment. “We’re excited to enhance our client offerings and provide the industry with solutions that will help guide and optimize investment decisions in this exciting, growing space.”

Recognizing the need for consistent sponsorship valuation in esports, Nielsen developed Esport24, a syndicated sponsorship tracking service for esports tournaments. The service measures brand exposure in esports tournaments representing a variety of titles, event formats and geographic locations based on the same methodology that allows traditional sports rights holders and brands to quantify value and benchmark performance.

Nielsen Esports will also release global fan insights throughout the year, with a new research offering spanning the US, UK, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, and China in 2017.

As part of this new business vertical, Nielsen has created an esports advisory board of industry stakeholders who will provide insight to help shape the future of esports audience measurement and valuation. Members include representatives from ESL, ESPN, Facebook, FIFA, Major League Gaming/Activision Blizzard, NBA 2K eLeague, The Next Level, Sony PlayStation, Turner, Twitch, Twitter, Unilever, and Google YouTube.

eSports Media Evolution's Next Move: Twitch, NBC, ESPN, Yahoo

ESPORTS MEDIA EVOLUTION'S NEXT MOVE: TWITCH, NBC, ESPN, YAHOO

2016 eSports Media Evolution. What's Next? (Photo: The Next Level)

2016 eSports Media Evolution. What's Next? (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL Take: It's #TBT - that's Throwback Thursday's for those stuck to their Bloomberg monitors rather than Instagram Stories - and the kids use it to post something today based on something old.

So here's a #TBT on eSports media evolution and where it's potentially heading next.

Last August in The Next Level 059, I spoke about the future fragmentation of eSports viewing; whereas a few years ago you only went to Twitch, 2016 brought a slew of distribution partners.

TNL Infographic 007: eSports Media Evolution (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 007: eSports Media Evolution (Infographic: The Next Level)

On the last deal between Yahoo eSports and ESL, note why I felt it was important from what seems like a millennium ago and where this plays into our story later today:

Yahoo eSports and ESL (Photo: The Next Level 059)

Yahoo eSports and ESL (Photo: The Next Level 059)

Now let's come back to 2017.  As mentioned earlier this year in The Next Level 128:

TNL Take: Go ahead and file this away till December but mark my words:
In 2017, eSports TV, broadcast rights and exclusivities will see big growth.

 

Here's what happened in just the first 2 months of 2017:

TNL Infographic 031: eSports Media Evolution 2017 (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 031: eSports Media Evolution 2017 (Infographic: The Next Level)

There have been even more deals - like YouTube essentially cornering Counter-Strike content - but let's highlight the last 3 to reflect the new reality:

 

JUNE 20: TWITCH, BLIZZARD SIGN MASSIVE 2-YEAR 3RD PARTY EXCLUSIVE DEAL

Exclusive Overwatch Loot Item for Twitch Prime Members (Photo: Twitch)

Exclusive Overwatch Loot Item for Twitch Prime Members (Photo: Twitch)

Last week, Twitch and Blizzard announced a huge 2 year exclusive 3rd party streaming agreement and partnership.

The deal is made up of two parts: content and in-game integration.

On the content side, Twitch gets access to Blizzard titles including Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm - pay attention to this one for a moment.

Twitch also gets access to 20+ events including:

  • StarCraft II World Championship Series
  • Hearthstone Championship Tour
  • Hearthstone Global Games
  • World of Warcraft Arena Championship
  • Overwatch APEX League
  • Overwatch Premier Series
  • Heroes of the Storm Global Championship

I've highlighted the last 3 because of the following: Ad Sales, the necessary evil, tug-of-war that exists both internally at publishers and externally at agencies and brands. Let me paint a simple picture:

 

[Media Buyer/Brand]: How can we work with Heroes of the Dorm? Please talk to Facebook, they have the exclusive.

[Media Buyer/Brand]: OK, how about the Heroes of the Storm Championship? Please talk to Twitch, they have the exclusive.

[Media Buyer/Brand]: OK, what about the Overwatch League? Please talk to Major League Gaming and whoever else they will partner with.

[Media Buyer/Brand]: But, wait, what about the Overwatch Apex League? Please go back and talk to Twitch.

Sound complicated? Just try explaining eSports.

 

The second part of the deal, just like Twitch Prime, is genius. Twitch Prime members will receive access to a slew of in game items across Blizzard titles and an exclusive Overwatch Loot box. Over the next year, Twitch Prime members will receive almost a dozen more of these.

"Loot Boxes" are essentially the lottery system inside gaming which primes the monetization pump: Want a really cool shirt for your character, skin for your gun or a Madden/FIFA player that's ultra rare? Buy a box and hope you win. Good luck!

We will continue to see exclusive, multi-platform deals across the same title. Ultimately, this benefits the publisher the most - like always - and more content for viewers to engage with.

But while we are still so early stages in the monetization of eSports, does this make it easier for media buyers and brands, the ones ultimately funding the current "infrastructure"?

This is just move preview #1.

 

JUNE 21: NBC ENTERS ESPORTS WITH ROCKET LEAGUE ACROSS TV, DIGITAL AND OTT

NBC To Broadcast Rocket League Across Multiple Platforms (Photo: Psyonix)

NBC To Broadcast Rocket League Across Multiple Platforms (Photo: Psyonix)

NBC has finally entered the eSports space by partnering with Psyonix's Rocket League. NBC Sports will work with online tournament platform FACEIT for a 2v2 event with a $100,000 prize pool.

The tournament will be shown across both TV, Digital and OTT with the current list including:

  • NBC Sports Regional Networks
  • NBC Sports Network
  • Telemundo Deportes
  • NBCUniversal International Networks

In terms of TV dates, NBC Sports PR told me

"The Regional Finals will be played at NBC Sports Regional Networks studios on the weekends of August 5-6 and August 12-13, and will be live-streamed on the NBC Sports app and Telemundo En Vivo app, as well as other social media platforms. Participating NBC Sports Regional Networks will televise the final hour of coverage from each of the Regional Finals.
The Grand Finals will feature 16 total teams competing on August 26-27 for the inaugural title and the $100,000 prize pool, which will be televised live in the U.S. on NBCSN. The Grand Finals will also be broadcast on Syfy in the UK, Germany, Australia and multiple countries across Latin America, in addition to all previously listed streaming outlets.

Wow that's a lot.

Now for Movie Preview #2.

Twitch has the exclusive on the Rocket League Championship series of which Season 3 performed very will with 150,000 average concurrent viewers and 1.5M+ hours viewed.  Further, Twitch did a phenomenal job on selling brand sponsors which included Mobil1, Old Spice and Brisk/7-11.

Oh, there's also the 7-11/Brisk Rocket League Summer Series going on right now.

When does Rocket League Season 4 start?

August.

 

JUNE 28: X-GAMES TO FEATURE ROCKET LEAGUE ON ESPN3

Even More Rocket League (Photo: Psyonix)

Even More Rocket League (Photo: Psyonix)

The business development team/person must have been on overdrive after Rocket League's Season 3 Championship as they've signed another deal, this time with the game featured at ESPN's X-Games.

Tournament platform FACEIT will again be involved in the $75,000 prize pool event which will be streaming on ESPN3 from July 14-16. eSports isn't new to X-Games as they've previously hosted titles including Call of Duty and Counter-Strike.

Movie Preview #3

 

/01 IS THE SAME CONTENT SUSTAINABLE?

Blizzard titles will probably be the first on the Mars OTT network. Rocket League may make there 4th distribution deal before the end of the year.

Is there enough audience to consume this content clutter?

Let's not even start on the issue of the bloodbath going on across media today, with just eSports related cuts: Yahoo eSports shuts down, GAMURS closing Wiki site due to poor ad revenue and ESL cutting staff yesterday.

 

/02 EASIER FOR AD SALES?

Let's ask a question:

Do the financial teams at Blizzard or Pysonix look at the media rights checks in front of them and say "But won't this make it potentially difficult for ad sales and brands to understand?"

I'll bet a million loot boxes that check was cashed before the question was even answered.

Why do I keep saying movie previews? Because, I've seen this movie before - many times.

In Game Advertising (Photo: Jamie Burke)

In Game Advertising (Photo: Jamie Burke)

My first article ever written was in October 2015 - "In Game Advertising: Failure or Future?"

 

I really hope it's the latter.

Microsoft Keeps Throwing Money At eSports And It's So Smart

MICROSOFT KEEPS THROWING MONEY AT ESPORTS AND IT'S SO SMART

(Photo: Microsoft)

TNL Take: The big headline around eSports currently are prize pools and in the case of the recently announced Gears of War Pro Circuit, it's a cool million.

But the what's the real story behind the new ten-month circuit between MLG, Gfinity and sponsored by Microsoft for the upcoming release of Gears of War 4?

It's an eSports monetization machine for Xbox.

And it’s so smart.

Let's go through why.

 

/01 Amateurs = Game Sales

Almost everyone I speak to that’s trying to get into eSports looks at it from the Professional angle.

And that totally makes sense if you’re new to eSports and even biased by being involved on the traditional Sports side.

But there’s an opportunity on the amateur side—and especially at the Collegiate level as I covered in The Next Level 008 back in April.

The new Gears of War Pro Circuit is open to both Pro Athletes and amateurs - but you need an actual copy of the game to participate.

Here's an estimate of how much Microsoft can make on this alone:

With just a 1% increase in Game Sales due to eSports, it already covers the Prize Pool with leftover for logistics and marketing. Yes, that's revenue and not profit to Microsoft but that's just one of the revenue streams.

 

/02 Tournament Structure

Here’s the next smart move.

In order for Amateurs to qualify, they will need to earn "Gears Pro Points" by competing in MLG's regional ladders on their GameBattles platform.

In these matches, players get Gears Points for playing well which then qualifies them for one of the international events.

There’s another revenue opportunity here but currently the entry fees are Free.

That’s not including any potential ancillary benefit that Activision-MLG get from new users to their platform.

 

/03 Exclusive eSports Maps and DLC

This is something that hasn't been announced and I'm including it to provide a scope on the overall monetization opportunity.

Microsoft could easily sell Gears of War 4 Map packs that are needed for eSports tournaments:

There's another potential million right there.

 

/04 Global and Regional Events

Outside of two dates in Columbus, which would be expected as the MLG Arena is based there, the interesting part is the international events:

 

Dec. 17-18, London, UK

Spring 2017, Mexico City, Mexico

Spring/Summer 2017, Paris, France

And another eSports event in Las Vegas in Summer 2017

 

While there are revenue opportunities via Tickets and Merchandise, events are ultimately a loss leader.

This is a perfect opportunity to use the whole program to not only promote Gears of War but Xbox eSports globally.

 

/05 Player Donated Prize Pools

You’ve probably seen the headlines of DoTA’s The International 6 recently surpassing a $20M total prize pool this past weekend with the winning Chinese team taking home $9M+ themselves.

Here's what no one mentions - but I'm going to more deeply soon - is that 92% of that $20M prize pool came from players themselves.

Valve contributes $1.6M to the prize pool and has remained the same amount the past few years.

It's super easy: Players buy in-game cosmetic items like an outfit or weapon skin for their character which doesn't help their gameplay at all and a part of that goes to the prize pool.

Microsoft will be hosting an October event where players will be able to buy Gears eSports themed in game content with proceeds going towards the tournament.

 

Some of that is going back to Microsoft.

 

/06 Broadcast

Gears of War doesn’t draw big Twitch viewership and I’ve already shown how challenging it can be to get Brands associated with First Person Shooter content, but there should be some minimal revenue from Broadcasts as well. 

 

And there you have it. 

Now let's see if Microsoft does the same for Halo.

Last season of Halo Championship Series was less than $250K in prize money.