Monetizing Media Rights in esports
The FACEIT London Major is underway, and while the main broadcast feed is being distributed for free (on both Twitch and YouTube), FACEIT is also experimenting with putting certain content behind a paywall. For a one-time fee of $9.99, fans can obtain access to a wide array of premium content related to the event, including an interactive HUD, player POV cameras, and channels powered by interactive statistics and custom extensions. This is the first example of a Twitch Premium Pass for a CS:GO event, as well as one of the earliest and most prominent instances of premium content surrounding a marquee esports event.
The monetization of media rights in esports has long been a complicated endeavor. While virtually every major traditional sports broadcast exists behind the subscription paywall of cable TV, esports broadcasts are the exact opposite. Esports fans aren’t so much chord-cutters as we are chord-nevers. We want our content available on all platforms, and we want it for free. The eyeballs themselves are still valuable and major events/leagues are able sell them for considerable sums of money (for example, the Overwatch League’s deal with Twitch is for a reported $90M over two years), but options are fairly limited. A competition organizer that strikes an exclusive broadcast deal will get pushback; if that deal is with a platform viewers don’t like—basically anywhere other than Twitch or (to a lesser extent) YouTube)—that pushback will escalate to vitriol.
Viewed in this light, it should come as no surprise that esports media rights make up a much smaller percentage of the economic pie than they do in traditional sports. This is what makes efforts like what Twitch and FACEIT are doing for the London Major so interesting. We know how esports fans will react if you set the bar to consuming content too high (in their eyes), but we don’t know how many esports fans will opt into paying fees for genuinely premium experiences. If efforts like this prove successful, it could serve as a model for not just other CS:GO events, but for esports and Twitch more broadly by unlocking new revenue streams that will trickle through to all key stakeholders in the industry.
DiGiorno does gaming
Popular frozen delivery brand DiGiorno stopped by numerous smaller Twitch streams this past weekend and followed creators as well as engaged with their viewers in chat. The reaction was immensely positive, as streamers spontaneously sang songs about DiGiorno, thanked them profusely in stream, promised to buy their products on social media, and even made custom DiGiorno pizza emojis for their channels.
As the profile of esports and gaming has continued to rise over the past few years, brands have been increasing their spend and focus on the esports and gaming sector. However, most brands focus on streamers with large audiences. DiGiorno’s focus on streamers averaging anywhere from 5-500 viewers is uncommon, which made their activation novel and well-received. Despite not offering sponsorships and clear signs that this was part of an activation (e.g. many different streamers being visited over a short period of time rather than a one-off drop-in) the general reaction by the microinfluencers and their loyal audiences was adoration.
It was clever, cost-effective, and well-received.
It would be great to see DiGiorno build on this activation by offering support (even if not formal sponsorships) for smaller streamers in the future, particularly as that niche is not one that any other brand in the gaming space has laid firm claim to. That a non-endemic pizza is in position to become the brand of choice for underdogs with savvy follow-up speaks to how forward-looking and clever DiGiorno’s was, though the real question is whether this was a one-off activation or the first step in a new gaming strategy. Either way, this weekend was yet another data point that gamers can be incredibly loyal to brands that reflect their values and meet them where they live.