Twitch to exclusively stream major ESL and DreamHack events from 2021
Twitch, the prominent live streaming platform, has made a significant new acquisition in the esports sector by landing a part-exclusive three-year deal with ESL and DreamHack, the specialist companies owned by Sweden’s Modern Times Group.
Under the agreement announced today, Amazon-owned Twitch will continue to offer the organisations’ leading esports competitions on its platform through to the end of 2022.
Twitch will have non-exclusive rights for the remainder of 2020 before becoming the exclusive English-language digital live streaming home of major events in 2021 and 2022.
These events will include the ESL Pro Tour for CS:GO and Starcraft II and Warcraft III, taking in the ESL Pro League, ESL One, Intel Extreme Masters, DreamHack Masters, DreamHack Open and ESL National Championships.
There will be exceptions to the exclusivity in certain territories and taking into account coverage on the digital platforms of linear television broadcast partners that have agreed deals with ESL and DreamHack.
Nonetheless, Twitch will serve as the central hub for the streaming of ESL and DreamHack competitions, working with the two companies to coordinate broadcast integrations and attract sponsors for the events.
The new agreement, the value of which has not been disclosed, represents a rare multi-year commitment from Twitch, and reflects the growing trend for exclusive deals in the esports sector.
Earlier this year, Google-owned YouTube became the exclusive digital home of the Activision Blizzard, the leading games publisher, in a three-year deal said to be worth around $160 million and covering competitions including the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League and Hearthstone Esports.
Twitch held rights to the first two seasons of the Overwatch League in a $90-million deal.
ESL events have been available on Twitch and YouTube since the expiration of an exclusive deal with Facebook, which covered 2018 only and met with a mixed reception from fans. The social media giant subsequently signed a non-exclusive deal for 2019.
Welcoming the new partnership with Twitch, Frank Uddo, senior vice-president, global media at ESL, said: “Live-streaming esports has belonged to Twitch in recent years. As we continue to host some of the world’s largest esports tournaments, it feels only natural to work even closer with Twitch to provide the best gaming experience for fans, as well as safeguard the future of the esports industry.”
DreamHack co-chief executive Roger Lodewick added: “This partnership is a milestone for DreamHack, both as a company and community. Our cooperation with Twitch dates back to 2009 when it was still Justin.tv - this new collective media partnership is re-confirming our long-standing collaboration and highlights the importance and relevance Twitch has to our community, as well as the value the ESL/DreamHack esports content brings to the global Twitch audience.”
The deal is also a boost for MTG whose esports plans for 2020 have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in the postponement and cancellation of multiple events albeit many competitions have continued online.
Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, the president and chief executive of MTG, said: “This both strategically and financially important deal between Twitch, ESL and DreamHack further establishes esports as a highly relevant global media product. We’re convinced that it is the first of many major leaps that esports as a media product is bound to take in the coming years.”
MTG today announced net sales of SKr924 million ($95 million) for the first quarter of the year, down 2 per cent from SKr940 million in the same period in 2019.
Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) came to minus SKr69 million, compared to minus SKr42 million a year earlier.
MTG highlighted initiatives such as moving the Pro Tour online, the signing of the ‘Louvre’ agreement with some of the world’s leading CS:GO teams and strategic agreements with Blizzard Entertainment and PUBG Mobile.
Lindemann said: “Government policies to contain the spread of the pandemic have had a negative impact on MTG’s esports vertical, which is built around large live events with media rights, brand partnerships and many attending fans who purchase tickets and merchandise. However, our work to further commercialize esports has continued in the quarter.
“The gaming vertical has proven to be more resilient to the impact from the Coronavirus pandemic. Our products have rather than being negatively impacted, seen an accelerated inflow of new users towards the end of the quarter. In particular InnoGames experienced this trend, ending March with a close to record high DAU.”
MTG has focused primarily on esports and gaming since the spin-off of media and television business Nordic Entertainment Group in 2018.
Meanwhile, Barclays, the prominent UK bank, has signed a deal with DreamHack to become the headline sponsor of the UK League of Legends Championship.
The deal, which was negotiated by Lagardère Sports UK, an arm of the international sports marketing agency, came as plans were announced for the 2020 UKLC season.
The campaign will start on 14 June, with eight teams from the UK and Ireland competing over an eight-week period, and £20,000 ($24,900) on offer to the participants.
The top two teams will advance to the Northern European League of Legends Championship.
This is Barclays’ first venture into esports but it is well known in traditional sport from its time as the title sponsor of English soccer’s Premier League and remains a partner of the competition.
Ben Davey, the chief executive of Barclays Ventures, said: “We are so excited to be partnering with DreamHack to present the UKLC, the pinnacle of UK league of legends, showcasing and nurturing the top UK esports talent.
“With our heritage of supporting sport and seeing the power it has to bring people together, the UKLC partnership was an obvious first step for Barclays into professional esports. We’re really looking forward to learning from the community how we can support teams, players, and fans to thrive and grow.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Complexity Gaming, the North American esports organisation, has extended and expanded its partnership with healthcare AI company Balanced Media Technology.
Under the innovative tie-up, Complexity Gaming said it will donate “unused computer processing power to find potential treatments for the Covid-19 virus.”
The two partners are encouraging gamers to download the Hewman Cell application, which will allow more than 200,000 medications and compounds to be processed to see which are most effective in treating the virus.
Jason Lake, the founder and chief executive of Complexity Gaming, said: “One of the core pillars of Complexity is Cause, and we’re always searching for ways that we can give back to our community. During these trying times, our partnership with Balanced allows us to leverage the power of gaming and esports to help identify solutions that can potentially slow the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately help to save lives.”