The growth of esports has been fuelled by viewership numbers and prize pool. The growth of esports has also coincided with that of Twitch, the dominant esports live streaming platform. Third party tournament organizers such as ESL have hosted several events over the years. These events have big prize money, viewership numbers and have high engagement numbers as well. Recently ESL announced an exclusive streaming deal with Facebook for ESL One tournaments as well as the ESL Pro League matches. These events form a significant chunk of their products and in esports as well.
ESL – A part of Turtle Entertainment Group
ESL, a part of the international digital entertainment group MTG, is the world’s largest esports company, leading the industry across the most popular video games with numerous online and offline competitions. It operates a high profile, branded international and national leagues and tournaments such as the Intel® Extreme Masters, ESL One, ESL National Championships and other top-tier stadium-size events, as well as grassroots amateur cups, leagues, and matchmaking systems. ESL covers a broad field of services in gaming technology, event management, advertising, and television production, fully catering to the needs of the esports ecosystem. With offices in North America, Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Spain, China, and partners in many other countries, it has a truly global footprint.
They are most well known for the various successfully organized tournaments in Dota2 and CS GO. Having invested a lot of time, money and efforts into these tournaments, ESL has become a household name in esports. They are one of the biggest investors in CS GO and Dota2, Valve’s most successful esport titles. Till date they were one of the most loved tournament organisers in the scene. But that changed quickly with the following announcement.
ESL announces Facebook deal
The announcement was made on their official website a few days ago. The announcement came just a few days before their first event included in the deal, ESL One Genting. You can read the full announcement in detail here.
“For years ESL has used Facebook to nurture its global community while broadening the audience for esports competition to millions of fans worldwide,” said Leo Olebe, Global Director, Facebook Games Partnerships. “Having two of ESL’s most adored properties for CS:GO and Dota 2 streaming exclusively on Facebook is the next step in our efforts to delight the passionate esports community on Facebook. The ability to now watch esports in 1080p and in VR underscores our commitment to adding more ways for fans to watch and connect with each other around the esports content they love most.”
Official tournament broadcasts will air in both English and Portuguese, with a variety of other language options available. Starting with Dota 2 at ESL One Genting 2018 from January 23-28 and CS:GO Pro League Season 7 on February 13th, non-stop content is coming your way. On top of tournament live streams, we’re excited to utilize Facebook Watch to produce additional broadcasts, such as a weekly show for Dota 2.
ESL One Genting
The ESL – Facebook deal would cover matches in Dota2 and CSGO as well. The first tournament to be streamed on Facebook is the ESL One Genting 2018. This is a Dota 2 minor tournament with a $400,000 prize pool offering.
The tournament was streamed on Facebook exclusively. This is Facebook’s first foray into the big games of CS GO and Dota2. While we have seen Facebook try to enter esports earlier via other titles such as Hearthstone, Paladins; they have not been successful in these ventures.
ESL One Genting saw viewership numbers drop drastically on the first day. While subsequent days saw a slight rise in these numbers, the average numbers were definitely way lower than before.
It was not uncommon to see the official stream with as few as a few hundred of viewers on many of the matches. At the same time, however, we saw several third-party streams going online on Twitch. These streams had viewership numbers of as high as 22000, definitely several times more than that of the official stream.
ESL One Genting saw a collective uproar from the community against ESL’s choice of Facebook as the exclusive streaming platform. There are many reasons, some logical while some were illogical from the fans.
Is Facebook a good choice right now?
There are several points to be made about the Facebook ESL deal. Some say it’s the right decision in order to be able to maintain the financial health of event organizers. Many of the general viewers, however, seem to be of a differing opinion.
Signs of a maturing market
The Facebook deal suggests that the esports streaming market is maturing. With third-party companies investing in esports, it shows how the market is maturing. There are two streaming models in existence: the PPV model where users have to pay to watch the streams and the free model where a company pays a huge amount of money to secure exclusive streaming rights.
We have seen both types of streaming models being used in regular sports. The free streaming model has gained a lot more acceptance of late. Esports has always been about games being free to watch. So it made sense to stick to that particular model. But then Facebook was the highest bidder in that particular segment.
Organising a tournament is a costly affair. Many of ESL’s tournaments regularly cross the $500,000 mark. We have read in interviews that the prize money is actually a fraction of the total expenses.
Esports does not have stadiums and ticket sales. While virtual merchandising has been attempted in Dota 2 earlier via Battlepass, compendiums and exclusive skins for particular tournaments, the idea has been dropped since then.
This leaves a huge financial gap between the income and expenses of tournament organizers. Following the traditional sports model, ESL and FaceIT have moved towards exclusive broadcasting deals with Youtube last year and Facebook this year ( for ESL).
More competitors in the Streaming market
One of the biggest advantages of this deal is that it brings in a new player in the streaming market. Currently, the two big players in the market are Twitch and Youtube. As far as we know, Twitch has been refusing to pay an amount that rightfully acknowledges the value of the ESL streams. More competitors in the market would mean more money coming into esports. It would help with the salaries, the stability and the
Quality of Stream
The quality of the Facebook stream has been poor at best. The Facebook stream uses Flash Player which is not being used on other live streaming platforms. WIth the stream being accessible via the Facebook app, we are seeing many people boycott the app. This might be due to the ineffective Facebook app which consumes a lot of battery to the privacy policies on Facebook.
But unless the quality of the live streaming platform improves, the viewers are within their rights to criticize the player. ESL is probably correct in trying to ensure a financial gain for the company, but they did it at the cost of the quality. This is unacceptable as the product offering has been sub-par so far.
ESL never anticipated the huge community backlash against the decision. Most of the top Reddit threads on the Dota2
subreddit were filled with negative comments about Facebook. While some comments were extreme steps which
shunned ESL and Facebook there was a lot of constructive criticism in these comments. ESL has since acknowledged the poor quality of the stream and several other problems.
However, it’s a case of a remedy too late. The Facebook streams continue to suffer from poor viewership numbers, which are nowhere close to the ones on Youtube or Twitch.
ESL reaction viewed as negative
ESL has had a very negative and defensive reaction to the entire episode. What started out as a normal community outrage at ESL decision turned into spite with ESL Vice President constantly blaming the community for the predicted decline in Dota 2 esports.
A series of tweets by the analysts blaming the community for their lack of understanding of the finances of a company did not go down well.
Here is how many Dota tournaments there are going to be in the future if noone is taking money for broadcast rights anymore: Exactly one (The International). Having your cake and eating it too never works.
— Ulrich Schulze (@theflyingdj) January 23, 2018
The most unfortunate thing about all of this is that the front page of the Dota 2 subreddit is filled with "ESL this ESL that" threads instead of actual talk about the matches of the Minor.
— Ulrich Schulze (@theflyingdj) January 23, 2018
ESL has also been issuing DMCA notices to several Twitch restreams. This has further alienated them from the public opinion. There appears to be some conflict with Valve’s policies, which will take some time to clarify.
Valve counters ESL’s DMCA notices
Valve came out with a statement about the validity of the DMCA notices. Since the ESL issued the DMCA notices for streaming Dota TV Content, it is not within their purview to be issuing DMCA warrants.
Valve’s statement regarding the issue :
The first issue we’ve been seeing discussed is regarding DMCA notices. This one is very simple: No one besides Valve is allowed to send DMCA notices for games streamed off of DotaTV that aren’t using the broadcasters’ unique content (camera movements, voice, etc).
The second issue is regarding who is permitted to cast off of DotaTV. We designed the DotaTV guidelines to be flexible in order to allow for up and coming casters, or community figures like BSJ or Bulldog that occasionally watch tournament games on their channel, to be able to stream off of DotaTV. It is not to allow commercial organizations like BTS to compete with the primary stream. It’ll be our judgment alone on who violates this guideline and not any other third parties.
A final word
Fans have been canceling their planned trips to future ESL tournaments and vowing to quit watching ESL streams altogether due to the Facebook deal. There has been lots of honest criticism to the deal which ESL should consider. The ESL Facebook deal might not have been the best path for ESL in retrospect. As a business decision, it would make more sense to see a balance between the community’s opinion, the potential downfall and the negative publicity.
What do you think about ESL Facebook deal? Do you support it or should ESL have done better research before signing the dotted line? Let us know in comments.
Source : ESLgaming.com
Image Courtesy: Gamegeek.gg