A Moron’s Take on Content Exclusivity

Kyle Freedman
7 min readMay 13, 2020

Tournament organizers incur costs in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to host every event. They’re responsible for the production, talent, location scouting, flights, visas, hotels, pcs, catering, security, internet, power, backup generators, insurance, venue fees, prize winnings, along with the wages for hundreds of unseen staff making things work.

It’s worth it for the show.

ESL Birmingham 2019

Esport events generate revenue in many ways, but primarily through three unique channels.

  1. Viewership
  2. Broadcast rights
  3. Sponsorships

If a Tournament Organizer (TO) had the exclusive right to broadcast live matches from their event, the viewership on monetized platforms would increase. Maybe by only 10 people. 100. 10,000. Who knows. Who cares.
For the purpose of this article, let’s pretend that any extra viewership would have absolutely zero impact on a TO’s bottom line.

Broadcast exclusivity is not about views.

It’s to ensure that a TO can properly monetize their content.

The idea is that if you have the sole rights to your content, you can sell them.

You can sell them to ESPN, NBC, CBS, Oprah.
To German TV Channel 7.
Malaysian eGG Network HD.
Red Bull.
Independent streamers.
You can make it free.

You can do whateverthefuckyouwant. It’s yours.

That’s why it’s valuable.

Overwatch League got OVER NINETY MILLION DOLLARS FROM TWITCH for two years of exclusivity.

Here are the viewer numbers from their inaugural season’s finals.

For comparison, here are the numbers from the KL Major.

courtesy of escharts.com

Season Two

Versus the Bukovel Minor.

courtesy of escharts.com

After two years of declining viewership in the OWL, Blizzard recently inked a new deal with Youtube giving them exclusive rights to broadcast their leagues in Overwatch, Call of Duty, & Hearthstone.

It’s estimated the deal is worth 160 million over three years.

Their viewership has declined over 50% since the move.

Most DotA events on Twitch are required to play Twitch ads for 6 minutes an hour. This poses some issues for a DotA 2 TO.
We don’t have a halftime.

Lets say a DotA game lasts for 75 minutes. We can all imagine the uproar if ads began playing mid-teamfight, so once the game ends, they’ll owe Twitch two hours of ad requirement (12 minutes) over the next 45.

At the end of the broadcast, if Twitch doesn’t see average 6 minutes of ads per hour, they inflict penalties based on a % of the ad revenue you’re ALREADY sharing with them.

You might not remember the last time you saw a 10+ minute ad break.
That’s because the TO didn’t play it. They ate it. They took the L.

Other games get paid by Twitch to use their platform.

In DotA, we pay them for the privilege.

Sponsors/Brands/Partners work with tournaments because of guaranteed exposure, promotion of goods/services, and opportunity for unique activations. Unless you’re attending in person, all of these occur via the tournament broadcast. Part of the value proposition for the tournament organizer is that this is highly desirable content, and the only way fans can watch is via the official broadcast. In Dota 2, a portion (sometimes a majority) of fans are watching via 3rd party streams. These streams do not carry the risks, costs, or responsibilities associated with the organizing or running of the tournament. These streams do not provide value to the sponsor, and detract from the ability of the tournament organizer to guarantee viewership.

Imagine how difficult it is to have a conversation with a marketing executive from Monster, explaining that you can’t do a goddamn thing about the livestreamer with 10,000 viewers displaying a Red Bull logo on stream even though Monster paid you six figures to sponsor the event.

Imagine explaining to Parimatch that even though a streamer has a link to an UNREGISTERED GAMBLING WEBSITE IN HIS TITLE as he casts your event on his personal stream, you can’t do a goddamn thing about it.

Imagine DotA 2 sparking interest from a huge brand like Verizon, Coca-Cola, or MasterCard. Try explaining why, unlike in their dealings with the NBA, NFL, MLB, LCS, OWL, CWL, MLL, UFC, FIFA, IOC, and Naked Jello Wrestling Federation, we’re unable to guarantee that our broadcast will be unique & exclusive.

When ESL One Genting was streamed on Facebook in 2018 it was awful.

However, we got it twisted; the problem was the stream/client/service was terrible. The platform was the problem, NOT the exclusivity.

You might ask; wait, if the streaming platform was shit…. why would ESL choose to broadcast their event on a shitty platform?

Well boys and girls, Facebook paid for that shit. They paid MILLIONS. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. That’s not pocketed by a suit. It pays for MORE GAMES. MORE TOURNAMENTS WITH BETTER PRODUCTION, MORE PRIZE POOL. MORE CONTENT.


Who in their right minds would want to listen to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman during the super bowl (other than some octogenarian FOX exec) instead of Pat McAfee, Peyton & Tom? And holy shit Favre is on stream DOING BEER BONGS WITH MADONNA? TOUCHDOWN VIKINGS!!!
I’d watch the SHIT out of that. BUT I CAN’T, because if I want to watch the Super Bowl live, I gotta be on FOX. They determine the manner in which their product is presented. If you don’t like it, write a letter.

It’s why you see celebrities and pros court side during the NBA finals. It’s the dance baby, and everybody comes out to watch. You don’t have a choice. If you want to be “seen”, want to be a part of the spectacle, you have to show up. If Lebron could hit up Drake, Steph & Shaq, stay home & stream the game live with their commentary….they’d do that. We’d watch.

Contrary to popular belief, most DotA 2 events do not make money. Since the beginning of the Dota Pro Circuit in 2018, no DotA 2 Major has made a profit.

As I stated on air, I don’t find fault with any individual streamers and their decision to act in their own self-interest. It’s not personal, I just want what’s best for the game I love. People respond to incentives, and I can’t get mad at anyone for simply playing the game by the rules.

Henrik, I’m very happy that you have lots of fans, you deserve it. You provide a great service to our community, as your stream is practically free daycare.

Esport has given me everything. I live the dream. I’ve met nearly my entire network thanks to this industry, and every time I go to an event I get to see & often work with many of my best friends. This game, this space is SO special. The molders & shapers behind the scenes have committed years of blood, sweat, tears and dreams to build it into what it is now. Everyone at an esport event is there primarily because of their passion.
There is no place I’d rather be than at a Dota 2 tournament.
It’s goddamn incredible.
I love Dota.

I also know what it is like to love a game and watch it die.

I’m not going to do it again.

& while I have your attention.

My favorite teacher’s favorite quote was simple — “The only thing we can learn from history, is that people don’t learn from history.”

In 1918, the second wave of the Spanish flu killed far more than the first.

A hundred years later, here we are again.

The only person we are truly responsible for is ourselves.
We can’t change the world. Just our own actions. So let’s do what we can.

If you leave the house, wear a mask. If you don’t have one, make your own.

Avoid large gatherings. No house parties. No clubs.

Wash your hands. Try not to touch your face or mucous membranes.

Everyone believes they’re a hero until they’re asked to make their own personal sacrifices.

Our great-grandparents had to go to war.

You just have to wear a mask and skip a summer.

I believe in you.



Kyle Freedman

You don't have to do something with your life. Just do something with your day.