Bryce Blum Appears on OTL to Discuss Esports
Watch: Outside the Lines discussion featuring Bob Ley, Darren Rovell, and Bryce Blum
Our Bryce Blum went on Outside the Lines with Bob Ley and Darren Rovell to discuss the current financial landscape of esports. They cover the enormous potential behind the esports industry propelled by the rapidly growing audiences and tournaments and the idea of unionization. Bryce argues that unionization is the correct path forward for the industry, but it may actually favor the owners more than the players. The three also discuss the current salaries of professional esports athletes and Bryce highlights the year-over-year growth. Darren questions whether the growth and projections will be realized.
Amazon Explores Esports and Traditional Sports Content
According to a report by Morningstar, in the near future, more U.S. households will have Amazon Prime subscriptions than cable TV. The same report estimates that 79 million households now have subscriptions compared to 66 million at the end of last year. SportsBusiness Journal goes on to say that this is not a sign that “Amazon Prime’s video service is more popular than TV, but rather, is an indication that Prime is moving toward becoming a ‘no-brainer’ for more than just wealthy Americans.” Amazon Prime’s popularity is certainly increasing as the value to fans of esports and traditional sports broadens.
Amazon has made several key moves in solidifying its place in esports and traditional sports consumption. Aside from the Twitch acquisition in 2014, Amazon announced at last year’s Twitchcon the addition of Twitch Prime to their existing Amazon Prime subscriptions as well as the acquisition of media rights for NFL’s Thursday Night Football. Amazon also debuted All Or Nothing last year, a behind the scenes look following the journey of one NFL team each season. Amazon Prime Video has a short list of esports related content but the platform isn’t at fault for this. Quality esports content just isn’t in abundance.
Twitch currently owns a majority of the market share in live gaming content although Facebook, Youtube Gaming, and others aren’t far away. Amazon isn’t afraid to spend big in order to secure media rights evidenced by the $50 million price tag on the 10 NFL Thursday Night Games they’ll stream this fall. Streaming rights for sports and esports content will likely continue to rise as these parties each battle for supremacy. However, Twitch still has the advantage of being the default option for gaming content in the minds of fans. Viewers (myself included) will often open Twitch without having a particular program in mind to watch because it’s easy to stumble across something interesting due to the amount of content. Facebook has not yet become the go to gaming content destination. Although the personal information Facebook has on its users will be able to populate gaming content one would watch, that viewer may be on Facebook to send a message to a friend and won’t have the time or desire to watch. As Facebook and Youtube continue to buy up more event and streaming media rights, we will see this paradigm start to shift. It will prove a costly endeavor for all of the streaming platforms involved but we will see rights holder reap the benefits.
Activision Considering Franchise Model for Call of Duty Esports
Last year, Activision Blizzard introduced a novel concept to the esports ecosystem by announcing that the Overwatch League would be implementing a franchising system. According to a post by Richard Lewis, it appears that the brass at Activision views this model with some affinity as they are considering replicating it for the popular Call of Duty franchise.
Lewis claims that “they are still in the very early stages of planning, but the launch date could be as soon as six months after the Overwatch League becomes active,” which also doesn’t yet have a definitive date.
Call of Duty is one of the longest running and most successful video game franchises in the world, but even the best must be willing to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. Activision Blizzard first became involved in the competitive Call of Duty scene back in 2015 when it launched the first CoD World League featuring Call of Duty Black Ops 3. Activision’s commitment to improving the league was exhibited early as they adapted in the CWL’s second season, placing a greater emphasis on events.
The unique aspect of the Call of Duty esports ecosystem is the existence of active communities in several of the game’s editions. Activision aimed to establish consistency in their esports community that would allow fans to follow the franchise, regardless of which game it might be. Last year was Black Ops III, this year it will surely be Infinite Warfare, and Activision has made it a priority to be able to transition effortlessly between games. The ultimate idea is to develop more structure and bring consistency to the teams and players in the league. With the various stages and championships that take place throughout the CWL calendar, using a franchise model would make following a team and the standings more fluid for fans.
Activision considering a franchising model for the CWL is unsurprising as the company clearly views it as the most sensible esports format, exhibited by the announcement of the OWL. The timing is, however, a bit perplexing as the launch of the OWL has fallen under a bit of scrutiny. Inaugural franchises in the OWL have already begun to complain about lack of communication, with news of a few owners pulling out of the league. One would think that Activision would want to use the OWL as a test run before diving head first with the CWL and opening themselves to more criticism. In addition, OWL owners have already begun to express discontent with the idea of having to pay an additional purchasing fee to reserve a spot in the CWL. The addition of a second franchise league is sure to test the relationships with existing owners, which could make it difficult to fill out the CWL’s roster. With the bad press that Activision Blizzard has already faced due to a shaky rollout of the OWL, it seems like a head-scratcher to follow up with this news. Building and operating one franchised league is difficult when you’ve never done it before, attempting to do so twice is problematic.