Social media mega-corp Facebook and esports organizer ESL have signed a contract for exclusive streaming rights to some of ESL’s most popular tournaments. Currently the deal encompasses plans to stream more than 5,500 hours of live tournament programming in six languages. Rank S (CS:GO), Intel Extreme Masters Events, and the ESL One Circuit (covering CS:GO and Dota 2) will be streaming via Facebook video starting with the upcoming Dota 2 tournament Jan 23-28.
“With over 1.94 billion monthly active users on Facebook, this is a huge step toward expanding the reach of esports among mainstream audiences,” said Johannes Schiefer, Vice President of Social Media and Editorial at ESL. “We are excited to expand our reach to more audiences and build strong local communities of highly engaged esports fans.”
This isn’t the first time that ESL has changed its streaming platform. The company started showing its matches on Twitch (back when it was still Justin.tv) and last year struck a deal with YouTube to broadcast ESL Pro League tournaments.
While many fans are expressing displeasure at the number of major tournaments and game play moving away from Twitch, moves like this seem to be overwhelmingly positive for the sport. With the Google acquisition of China’s live streaming platform Chushou, Disney’s investment in BAMTech (who has a streaming deal with Riot Games), and now this contract, esports are poised to reach a greater audience than ever before. “We are moving out of the more endemic spaces and platforms where we solely catered to a core esports audience and open up more to a broader audience,” senior vice president of media rights and distribution Nik Adams said. “Here we can grow ourselves and our audience a little bit more and maybe lower the barrier to entry to esports a little bit, and bring it to people who haven’t heard of esports before or might have interest but aren’t regular viewers of those core platforms.”
Greater audience means more fans and more players, which equals more money for developers and more support for the gaming community at large. In addition to seeing your favorite game represented in the social media you use every day, in a few years you may just be hearing your co-workers discussing the latest CounterStrike tournament around the watercooler. ESL and Facebook certainly hope so.