By Petar Vukobrat
February 14, 2020
The whole Activision Blizzard YouTube Gaming deal kind of took everyone by surprise. Most people expected Blizzard’s properties to end up on Twitch yet again, seeing how they already had an established relationship that was quite fruitful. Instead, they opted for YouTube Gaming. The platform has its strengths and weaknesses, but it was also quite a shocker.
We also knew Blizzard’s two-year deal with Twitch was worth $90 million. Half of that total sum immediately went to Blizzard. What remained allocated to all competing permanent partners. Everyone and their mother wondered whether the venerable developer landed another lucrative deal or if this was a step-down.
Fortunately, we finally have some numbers to go over, so let’s dive a bit deeper.
According to The Esports Observer, YouTube had to shell out around $160 million for a three-year deal with Blizzard for exclusive streaming rights to the Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, along with all Hearthstone tournaments. This certainly is a step-down profit-wise for Blizzard, although it’s far from alarming.
The total sum gets split across all three leagues although the Overwatch League gets the biggest chunk. We don’t know how big of a piece we’re talking about, but this does make sense.
What’s problematic, however, is the total number of permanent partners still locked at 20. Yet, each one of them must organize multiple homestands throughout the year. This means their expenses will go through the roof. The solid, lucrative deal, now seems a bit underwhelming, all things considered.
The Esports Observer also mentions “incentive clauses for ad sales and viewership targets.” Blizzard (and everyone involved) could earn more than the amount disclosed, but that’s an “if” rather than “when.”
The Call of Duty League had impressive opening numbers (over 100,000 thousand viewers). It’ll be interesting to see whether they can sustain such a high number over a prolonged period. The Overwatch League, however, had a harder time raking in viewers when compared to 2019 Twitch numbers (around 30,000 less).
The jump to YouTube Gaming naturally means the League needs to take a step or two backward numbers-wise, but things should, in theory, improve over the coming weeks.
The lack of any clipping functionality (not to mention rewards and perks) meant a lot of people didn’t have the same incentive to tune in and watch. Blizzard is working with YouTube to create league-specific rewards, although that’s still way off.
The whole Activision Blizzard YouTube Gaming deal isn’t as bad as people thought. If anything, YouTube shelled out a lot to compete with Twitch, but whether it pans out remains to be seen.