YouTube’s media-rights deal with Activision Blizzard Esports is valued at around $160M USD over three years, according to people briefed on the terms of pact, part of the broader new strategic partnership between Google and the video game company. Google and Activision Blizzard announced the new partnership late last month just before the start of the Call of Duty League (CLD) season.
Sources said the deal comes in around $160M total for all of the esports properties involved — Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. The previous deal that Activision Blizzard had for just the Overwatch League (OWL) was reportedly valued at $90M total over two years. Activision Blizzard declined comment. The exact breakdown of how much each property contributes to the total payout from Google is not known, but sources said that the majority is towards OWL, with a lesser but still notable amount going toward CDL, while Hearthstone — which is not a Tier 1 esport — was described as essentially a free throw-in for YouTube.
Sources said that the deal includes significant incentive clauses for ad sales and viewership targets, so the money coming to the league and teams could go up markedly. These incentive clauses, described by sources as achievable, are partially why teams and other executives around the league have been happy with the new YouTube deal even though the base amount going to OWL is not an increase from the Twitch deal.
As part of the deal, Google Cloud now will provide cloud computing services to Activision Blizzard, an account that sources have described as enormous given Activision Blizzard’s status as one of the biggest video game companies in the world.
Endeavor Senior VP/Esports Stuart Saw wrote in an email, “From a macro market perspective, this a big moment in esports history. This is the first time a tier one western game developer has gone exclusive with one of its products off of Twitch since ironically Activision did so with Call of Duty fiveish years ago. For YouTube, it’s a real statement of intent for them to bolster a growing product.”
Saw added that in the broader tech war between Amazon and Google, this deal is a significant one both because of what it means on the esports side as well as the cloud services side, of which Amazon’s AWS also is a major player.
Saw: “If you look across Google, YouTube, Cloud, Stadia, Ads — gaming is a big vertical for them. Externally, this is one of the first examples where Google’s cross-group strategy has been immediately obvious. The right hand is complimenting the left. This is a big, headline acquisition and proof of concept for both Cloud and YouTube. They’ll both be looking to use this as a case study against Amazon’s AWS and Twitch across the market.”
Off The Throne?
The deal also raises more questions about whether Twitch is losing its dominant position in esports and gaming following the defection of several major streamers last year on top of this new loss.
Saw said, “It’ll be fascinating to look back in a few years and ascertain the true impact this deal has had on esports and Twitch. History dictates that Twitch should not be concerned: they’ve lost content to rival platforms before and haven’t lost market share. That being said, everything feels a little different right now: the rights industry has never been more competitive, and the volume of competing streaming platforms suggests we may, for the first time, be moving toward a fragmented market.”