eSports Wars: Twitch vs. Everyone Else - Part 1


TNL Take: 9 months ago, I looked at the various companies, startups and platforms going after the eSports market in The Next Level 010: The War On Twitch.

How quickly things change.

When you're on top of the mountain, unfortunately the only place to go is down. Pre-Amazon acquisition, if you wanted to watch any eSports content, you pretty much went to Twitch.

Things started to change in 2016.

TNL Infographic 007: eSports Media Evolution 2016 (Infographic: The Next Level)

I steadfastly hold to my opinion that one of 2017's biggest eSports themes will be about broadcast and media rights.

Here's what's happened so far this year:

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

TNL Infographic 029: 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

This past week, we saw another Exclusive broadcast deal, between FACEIT which brings their Counter-Strike based ECS (eSports Championship Series) to YouTube.

Not only did the ECS launch last year on Twitch, this is the 2nd Counter-Strike Exclusive for YouTube Gaming after it's January deal with ESL's Pro League.

This is interesting for a few reasons but let's recap what I said last year about YouTube and eSports:

The Next Level 010: The War On Twitch (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level 010: The War On Twitch (Photo: The Next Level)

YouTube basically didn't need live eSports considering how much many it's makes off VOD eSports and Gaming content - cough....Pewdiepie....cough.

Here's why I believe YouTube is making this move now.


If you go back over the last year, Counter-Strike has been in the top 3 eSports games by Hours Viewed and #1 for half of the year.  If you're selling ads - you need eyeballs and engagement.



Now that YouTube has both ESL's Pro League and ECS - and considering that ELEAGUE Season 3 hasn't been confirmed yet and IEM/Dreamhack CS events are also on Twitter now - Google has almost a virtual lock on Counter-Strike Exclusive content.



I'm just going to quote directly what FACEIT's Chief Business Officer Michel Attisani told Forbes:

"ECS is co-owned by the teams participating and there is a revenue share in place. This deal will bring great stability to the scene, and will give us the opportunity to really focus on developing the product, while the YouTube and Google sales team will take care of commercializing the content. That’s not just in terms of pure advertising but also in terms of sponsorship and brand integration. When you talk about Google, it's the best sales force in the world when it comes to digital"



TV Channels On YouTube TV (Photo: YouTube)

YouTube's new Live TV subscription service for $35/month has a ton of great content from channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN, 2 and 3, THE CW, FS1, BTN - if the last few sound familiar, they've all broadcast eSports content over the past year.

However there's another potential for eSports and Gaming content: YouTube Red Originals.

YouTube Red Originals will be included in YouTube TV's content package which contains a lot of gaming content.

Offering exclusivity, distribution, content, studio production and monetization - makes YouTube and eSports a lot more compelling than potentially other platforms.

Twitch isn't going to sit back and let YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other emerging startups just take what they've built over the past few years.

How is Twitch going to strike back?

I'll cover that in Part 2.

Twitter Will Live Stream 1,500 Hours Of eSports


Twitter's Huge eSports Push (Photo: Unikrn)

The Evolution of eSports Distribution (Photo: The Next Level)

The Dumbbell Theory Of Media (Graphic: The Next Level)

Or eSports in 2017 will be about broadcast rights?

Here's what's happened in the first 2 months already:

It's all coming together.

Now back to Twitter.  In 2016, Twitter broadcasted 1 event for less than 10 hours of content.

 Twitter will now broadcast 15 events producing 1500+ hours in 2017.

The deal consists of ESL One – how many more partners will ESL partner with? – Intel Extreme Masters and the DreamHack circuit.

The first broadcast occurred this past weekend with the Intel Extreme Katowice tournament in Poland (FYI, both ESL and DreamHack are owned by Swedish media company MTG)

Now these aren’t exclusive content deals to Twitter but there are two points that are highly interesting to me:

  • The ad packages will more closely resemble TV style ad spots; with highlights and recaps which can be sponsored
  • Here’s the bigger one: ESL will produce a weekly 30-minute show – aka an eSports SportsCenter – that will be exclusive to Twitter

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said that eSports needs better, customized content and look forward to seeing them role this out.

It’s great to see major companies like ESPN, Yahoo, Turner, Twitter, Facebook, Mashable and many others begin to invest more in their eSports coverage.

I spoke further about Twitter’s big entrance on WWG's live Twitch show "The Checkpoint" last week which you can see below (starts at 17:30):

We haven't even finished the first quarter and eSports is off to a blazing start.

Can't wait to see what the next three quarters will bring.

eSports On TV: What Do The Ratings Mean?


Just a Family Watching eSports on TV (Photo: Kotaku)

TNL Take: Now that we're done talking about Super Bowl 51's ratings and God's son performing a miracle  ("Despite Overtime, Ratings Drop!", "Lowest Ratings In 3 Years!", "Lady Gaga Beats Brady!" , "Cheaters!"), let's take some time reflect on another accomplishment this weekend: eSports aired across several TV networks and ESPN's 1st broadcast directly against The Big Game™.

Here are the numbers:

eSports On TV 2017 (Infographic: The Next Level)

So what's this all mean?

As usual, let's start with the qualification: It's very early days with minimal data, so any attempt at analysis or future ratings is an educated guess at best.



Madden Bowl at Super Bowl LI (Photo: Bob Levey/Getty)

Madden Bowl at Super Bowl LI (Photo: Bob Levey/Getty)

Looking at what the NFL Network aired the previous Friday at the same time, Madden Bowl increased Viewership by 57% in 18-49 Viewers:

NFL Network Madden vs. Previous Friday Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

However on the Spanish language broadcast on Univision Deportes, it performed worse than the 1st Madden event in 2016:

EA Madden NFL eSports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

Further, take the following points into account:

  • Still early days for Madden eSports
  • Comparing Madden against a long established eSports franchise like Counter-Strike
  • Madden's Fri Night time slot vs. Sunday Morning for Counter-Strike

From a programming perspective and without knowing the content costs, this looks like a win for Madden eSports and NFL Network by only getting 20% fewer viewers than ELEAGUE's Major.



EA Sports FIFA Paris Regionals (Photo: EA Sports)

The Paris Regional Finals for EA Sports FIFA 17 drew the most Media coverage as it would be not only be the 1st eSports program on ESPN's flagship channel but also directly against Super Bowl 51.

However it looks like the FIFA 17 tournament didn't match last years ESPN Super Bowl counter-programming against a Spike Lee special:

ESPN 2016 and 2017 Super Bowl Counter-Programming (Chart: The Next Level)

In addition, the FIFA 17 Paris Regional would have ranked #22 out of 24 when compared with the 2016 eSports programs on TV.

So is that a failure for FIFA?

Not at all. Again, still very early days and even with those low numbers still garnered 40%+ of the audience of ELEAGUE's biggest eSports event while going against the Super Bowl.

We've just started February and already have had 5 eSports programs on TV; not including what the Big Ten Network has aired already.


2017 is on pace to beat 2016's 20+ eSports programs on TV. Let's keep going.