Twitch now has 3rd-party streaming rights of Blizzard tournaments

In Esports by Ashley WoodLeave a Comment

If you’re a fan of esports like we are here at Obilisk, then you’ll be interested to know that Twitch recently signed a 2-year contract with Blizzard, giving them exclusive third-party streaming rights to many popular Blizzard tournaments. Although you’ll still be able to stream the tournaments from Blizzard’s own site, you will no longer be able to watch them on YouTube Gaming or other streaming sites.

The tournaments secured by Twitch currently include the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship, StarCraft II World Championship Series, Hearthstone Championship Tour, Hearthstone Global Games, World of Warcraft Arena Championship, Overwatch APEX League, and the Overwatch Premier Series. Twitch has also indicated that there could be future additions to this list.

In addition to Twitch being the only third-party streaming platform for these games, the partnership also gives Twitch Prime members a Golden Loot Box, plus an additional 10 regular loot boxes in the coming months. I am not as upset by this news as some might be, because I’m a proud Twitch Prime member and I got my golden loot box, but I can see why some might be upset.

In the past, esports were available on multiple streaming sites making them easily accessible to everyone, regardless of where they were at in the world.  Although Twitch recently announced that their service is now available in 200 countries, this still does not provide the wider coverage of streaming on multiple platforms.  In addition, although you can stream Blizzard’s tournaments on the Blizzard website, you need to purchase a digital pass to Blizzcon to watch some of the content.

This new development in the world of esports raises questions of future battles to secure streaming rights for popular tournaments.  Although this isn’t affecting my access right now, I can’t help but wonder what I would do if ESPN secured broadcast rights to something like Dota 2 or League of Legends? I do not have cable and refuse to take on that expense to watch competitive games, so I would be angry, as I’m sure many would.

As esports become more popular, larger companies are going to start noticing and vying for exclusive rights to those competitive games – much like the fight over the broadcast rights of traditional sports like baseball and football.  According to an analysis of the viewership of competitive games, over twice as many people watched an esports tournament in 2016 than tuned into the Super Bowl. The analysis also predicts that by 2018, the audience of esports is expected to hit 323 million worldwide. To give you an idea of how large that number is, it is actually about 2 million more people than the total population of the United States.

While esports have slowly been gaining popularity, we in the gaming community have taken for granted the unlimited access we have had to these streams.  Although I do not think game publishers would intentionally try to make their tournaments less accessible, we have to remember that this is a monetized industry and the quest for profit often has the final say in publishers’ decisions.

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Ashley Wood
I play games on all of the consoles, as well as on the PC. I give Blizzard most of my money. Direct message me on Twitter if you want to play with someone of varying skill in WoW, HOTS, or Overwatch.

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