Opinion: ESL Didn't Break the Twitch Monopoly. Yet?

by Kevin Knocke

The stage was set for the ESL Pro League to start with a bang. Unfortunately, it may have turned out to be a fizzle.

It opened with a marquee matchup between the No. 1 and No. 7 teams in the WWG CS:GO Team Rankings -- Astralis and Natus Vincere, respectively -- for the EU primetime match. There was support and loyalty from their players after the recent PEA drama, and a shiny new contract to exclusively stream the English commentary on YouTube rather than Twitch.

It was perfect in theory. Not so much in execution.

While watching the stream, there was an average of 19-20k viewers throughout most of the 1st map between Na'Vi and Astralis, before dipping to 15k in the second match. Meanwhile, game one on the Russian stream on Twitch was pulling in about 41k viewers, and a Swedish language coverage of the game (mind you, there were no Swedish teams participating in this game) was sitting around 15k viewers.

Without even counting the other languages with smaller viewership, there's still almost a 3:1 disparity of views between Twitch non-English streams and the YouTube English stream, despite the fact that almost all esports events are more popular in English than other languages (not a hard and fast rule, but it's the trend, generally).

Watching the stream though, why would anyone switch from Twitch? As far as this broadcast was concerned, there weren't any features that seemed like YouTube was pushing to differentiate their service. In fact, it lacked many of the community features that viewers were used to on Twitch and a good portion of the chat was commenting something along of lines of "Bring back Twitch."

Now of course this is just day one of a partnership that needs time to develop. But wouldn't it be reasonable to blow out the launch of your now $1,000,000 premier league with some new features or at least a reason for the switch to YouTube rather than it just making business sense?

But whereas most people would just tune into the default English stream, most seem to be preferring to stay on Twitch in their native language rather than go to YouTube, even though the switch literally costs them nothing.

No, not everyone is going to swap right away, but this is a very tepid reception for what is actually a pretty big step forward for non-Twitch esports broadcasts.

More esports influencing from Knocke: The Super Bowl Could Learn From Esports Broadcasters | ESPN (Not the Ocho) is Airing Esports... But it's During the Super Bowl | Give More Than One Game a Chance