02/18/21: Call of Duty League opened with record numbers


Medias First Morning Read


Thursday February 18, 2021

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief.
The 2021 season of Call of Duty League started strong, with Opening Weekend handing Activision with viewership records. Events ran Feb. 11-14, with YouTube reporting that that span ranked as the most-viewed CDL event ever outside of its Championship weekend, notching an average-minute-audience of 80,000 with 1.4 million hours of league content being viewed. Anchoring the numbers was the matchup between Optic Chicago and Atlanta FaZe, which hit a record number of viewers for a regular-season game at 118K, as well as peak viewership of 131,000.

Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard Esports is reportedly looking to anchor its primetime slots of CDL and Overwatch League on YouTube with flex matchups to offer the most compelling matchups in that time, per TEO. “It has been something we see as critical to putting our best product forward when we know it’s hard for people to sometimes watch three matches a day,” ABE CRO Brandon Snow said in the report. “It’s something we’ve taken from traditional sports.”

Continuing the theme, Overwatch League is offering fans a taste of the action at BlizzConline (running Friday and Saturday) and will take the virtual stage on Saturday at noon PT with the Shock vs. The World competition, as the two-time champion San Francisco Shock take on a dream team featuring pro players, streamers, community figures, and other special guests in a series of Overwatch challenges. At the conclusion of the Shock vs. The World, Blizzard will reveal the 2021 Overwatch League season schedule on overwatchleague.com and share new details about the upcoming season format.

The NBA 2K League announced that the fourth annual NBA 2K League Draft will be held virtually on Saturday, March 13 at 7p, livestreamed on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels. All 23 NBA 2K League teams will complete their six-person roster during the four-round draft with Lakers Gaming holding the first overall pick. During the offseason, 76 players who competed in the 2020 season were retained by their teams, leaving 62 roster spots available. Up to 100 prospects and select team “war rooms” will join the draft broadcast through live look-ins from their locations around the world, and NBA 2K League President Brendan Donohue will announce select picks. The broadcast will also feature a variety of viewing options through Twitch’s Command Center, clips from NBA 2K League original content series “Draft Hopefuls” and “NBA 2KL: Drive to Draft,” and surprise guests from the 2K community and beyond announcing picks and providing commentary.

The Pro Bowl: The Madden NFL 21 Edition, Presented by Verizon become the most-viewed event in Madden NFL history on digital platforms. The event was streamed on Twitter by 27 NFL teams, NFL social channels and EA Madden NFL Twitch. Across digital, the Pro Bowl generated 3.5 million live views with 121K combined average minute audience, while the Pro Bowl also brought in younger fans to NFL Network with the reair of the event up 36% in 18-34 viewership compared to last year.

CSL Esports revealed details of the 2021 CSL playoffs, which will launch on Saturday with the Grand Finals airing live on CSL Esports’ Twitch channel on April 24 and 25. The top collegiate teams in six different games qualify to compete for a prize pool totaling over $60,000 with the playoff format featuring the top 36 CS:GO teams, the best 9 Dota 2 teams, the top 39 Valorant teams, and 117 League of Legends teams, all in best-of-three series; the best 48 Rocket League teams in a best-of-seven series; and the top Street Fighter V players in a Top Eight single elimination format.

Don’t miss EBS University! Esports Business Summit is taking our readers to school, launching EBSU, a two-day event fully dedicated to the exploding business of collegiate esports, from recruitment to sponsorship to tech to inclusivity and competition, we’ve got a killer lineup of speakers ready to build this community. Join us from March 23-24 and click here for more info.

This week, Stream Hatchet analyzed the Call of Duty League (CDL) Opening Weekend viewership. Going into its second season, expectations were high and the Opening Weekend did not disappoint. The YouTube exclusive live streams generated impressive numbers leading to YoY growth across all key streaming metrics. Comparing viewership data from matches, the 2021 CDL Opening Weekend out performed its 2020 counterpart by at least 25% across the board. Total hours watched and peak viewers also increased by wide margins of 28% and 25% respectively.

If this past weekend is any indication, the CDL is primed for another successful year on YouTube. The growth between Call of Duty, the Call of Duty League, and YouTube within live streaming creates endless potential. Additionally, the viewer drop rewards provide another incentive for the player base to watch the professional league. Those who link their YouTube and Call of Duty accounts and watch a certain amount of live CDL broadcasts will be granted in-game items.

For more insights about live streaming trends and data please visit www.streamhatchet.com/insights.

Rockstar Energy Drink announced a new partnership for 2021 with 100 Thieves. The partnership actually kicked off during the brand’s Super Bowl ad when 100 Thieves Founder and CEO Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag appeared in the spot. Nadeshot and the wider 100 Thieves team will become primary faces for Rockstar Energy in 2021, with plans to deliver original social content and interactive experiences to “inspire gamers to reach their next level.”

Meanwhile, Call of Duty League squad LA Thieves confirmed a partnership with new sponsor MTN DEW GAME FUEL. With the CDL season underway, the brand will now be integrated into LA Thieves content and social media outlets. The league’s only new team previously announced a deal with Dollar Shave Club.

Activision Blizzard Media and market research firm Alter Agents and neuroscience experts at Immersion unveiled a study about the emotional impact of advertising and sponsorships on esports versus traditional sports viewers. The multi-cell, trimodal research study found that during sponsorship ads, the immersion was more sustained for esports viewers with data showing that: Esports is better at keeping viewer attention during sponsorships ads, resulting in higher performance on critical brand metrics; esports viewers are more accepting of advertisements than traditional sports fans, showing a higher immersion score, defined as “attention plus emotional response”; and that brand favorability and brand perception are higher for esports experiences compared to traditional sports.

Caps Gaming, the esports sub brand of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, announced Zipchair as the Official Chair of Caps Gaming. The two-year partnership marks the first of its kind in the NHL esports community, with Caps Gaming becoming the first NHL esports affiliate to announce a chair partnership. The deal sees Caps Gaming use Zipchair’s line of gaming chairs across Caps Gaming streams, events and content

Misfits Gaming Group named gaming furniture manufacturer RESPAWN Products as the org’s newest partner, where all team members and influencers will receive a RESPAWN chair. “Misfits’s diverse involvement across multiple esports scenes and leagues made them the perfect candidate for RESPAWN to partner with in 2021 and continue our commitment to the esports space,” said Alex Gonzalez, Marketing Manager at RESPAWN Products. “We’re looking forward to outfitting their South Florida headquarters and office in Berlin, and providing gaming furniture to all of their teams and players, including the Florida Mutineers and Florida Mayhem.”

Zaxby’s renewed its deal with Misfits Gaming Group’s Florida Mayhem and added a partnership with the Florida Mutineers. “The Florida Mayhem & Florida Mutineers are, no doubt, the best in their class and we’re looking forward to expanding our partnership with one of the best organizations in the game,” said Joel Bulger, CMO of Zaxby’s. “As the esports and gaming industry continues to flourish, we are grateful to be able to connect Zaxby’s to its highly engaged audience.”

BLAST Premier renewed and its expanded partnership agreement with skin trading platform CS.MONEY for 2021. The announcement marks the third partner renewal BLAST Premier has secured for the 2021 season and comes after last month’s Global Final set a Counter-Strike record for the most watched online game of all time.

OWL squad the Washington Justice locked in a deal with PenFed Credit Union in a three-year, expanded accord that kicks in with the 2021 season that will feature PenFed as an official Jersey Patch Partner of the Washington Justice and a first of its kind team-branded credit card.


See who’s leading the charge in media excellence.


The Cynopsis Best Of The Best Awards Luncheon
Featuring Media’s Rising Stars
Thursday, February 6th | NYC



YouGov announced that its Global Fan Profiles tool would allow properties, sponsors and rights holders to track fan sentiment and attitudes in esports. The platform is built upon more than 300,000 interviews per year collected on a continuous basis and offers provides an instant view of the size, make-up, attitudes and behaviors of fan bases in 32 key esports markets including the United States, China, India, Brazil, Germany, South Korea and Malaysia in order to help properties, sponsors and rights holders identify the size of their fan bases, who their fans are, how fans consume content and how they align with the thousands of brands and audience trends YouGov tracks on a daily basis. “Esports is such a valuable and fast-developing industry that properties, partners and rights holders deserve to have accurate and always-on data at their fingertips. Sponsors are getting more sophisticated about how and where they choose to invest in the space, and YouGov Global Fan Profiles is the most comprehensive, in-depth and valuable dataset in the market,” said Nicole Pike, YouGov’s Global Sector Head of Esports & Gaming. “This tool represents an important step in moving the conversation away from generic “esports fans,” and toward a more nuanced view of the distinct fan bases within this growing space.”

Riot is tapping the talents of German production company Freaks 4U Gaming to organize and broadcast the 2021 VALORANT competitive season across Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Turkey. Entertainment agency SPORTFIVE will serve as as a marketing partner for the Challengers, Challenger Finals, and Last Chance Qualifiers stages of the VALORANT Champions Tour in those regions.

In addition, Riot Games partnered with ProGaming Italia for VALORANT in Italy, with the company nabbing exclusive Italian-language production rights of all international competitions.


FaZe Clan tapped Amit Baiai as the company’s new Chief Financial Officer where he will oversee finance, strategy and corporate development at the team, as well as collaborate with the rest of the leadership team to expand growth opportunities for the business. Most recently, he was Chief Executive Officer at BIG3. “As we look ahead, Amit’s finance experience and his ability to think strategically will be instrumental to FaZe Clan’s growth,” said FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink. “He’s highly regarded and has played a pivotal role advising prolific companies and management teams in periods of transformation. We’re thrilled to welcome Amit where his diverse background, collaborative nature and deep experience will help drive our continued mission.”

FlyQuest announced the addition of streamer Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani into the team umbrella as an official partner and influencer where he will stream under the FlyQuest banner this year. “I met Joey in 2012 at IPL4, and having worked with him previously, I really wanted to work with him again at FlyQuest,” said FlyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita. “Joey embodies so many of our values like gratitude, positivity, thoughtfulness, and generosity of spirit. Joey’s a natural fit for FlyQuest, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to showcase greatness together.”

In an effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the nonprofit sector, the National MS Society has partnered with Immortals Gaming Club to leverage esports and gaming as a fundraising tool. “The Society officially launched Stream to End MS in May 2020 and it has shown great success,” said Rachael Nuwash, Associate Vice President of Emerging Events, National MS Society. “Immortals Gaming Club is helping the National MS Society bring this new and innovative fundraising campaign to the next level, meeting our constituents where they are and taking the Society into the future of fundraising.” As part of the partnership with the National MS Society, IGC Events will plan and host a series of online tournaments and charity activations across multiple game titles in 2021.

Beasley Esports revealed details of the Overwatch League’s Houston Outlaws’ First Annual Most Wanted Content Creator Search Awards Show. The event, sponsored by H-E-B, Samsung and Zenni, will be broadcast live on the Outlaws Twitch Channel and YouTube channel on Feb. 15. The Finals are a culmination of a three-month effort to find up to three content creators, selected from the final contestants that will join the Outlaws in helping the team entertain and capture key video moments throughout the year as well as expand and provide more insider access to their players and gamer lifestyle. The show will be hosted by Malik Forte.


Three years after launching their communications agency anchored by heavyweight esports clients, The Story Mob is building out its roster of touchpoints. The international agency founded by Anna Rozwandowicz and Nicola Piggott, announced plans to rebrand and expand beyond esports to in a move designed to meet the growing need of organizations and brand partners looking to tap into gaming culture overall. With the strategy shift, the company will offer new services that include expert brand guidance through gaming culture — which intersects sports, entertainment, music, and fashion. Among the highlights for the milestone anniversary office locations in Los Angeles, Amsterdam and London; white papers detailing trends and insights into the industry; over 300 pro players, influencers and industry executives media trained and coached through interviews; and more.

Cynopsis Esports caught up with Piggott to talk about the journey so far and where they see business evolving in the coming years.

How would you compare the market now versus when you launched the agency?
When Anna and I first sketched out The Story Mob back in 2017, our vision was very specific and focused on the esports market we had been contemporaries and colleagues in for so long. Neither of us had been able to find a credible communications agency that (a) understood the gaming and esports landscape and (b) had the skills to support the very best in the space, for a good reason – no such agency existed. Communications groups underestimated esports and didn’t understand the necessity for authenticity when speaking to a gaming audience. They assumed they could fake it.

Since then, not only has the Mob grown beyond our original esports sandbox, the communications world has started to wake up to this massive opportunity space. We’ve seen multiple competitors launch gaming and esports verticals and try to take advantage of the increased investment in the space. As an OG mover in the space, we welcome this development. We believe that competition fosters innovation, and we’re at our best when we’re consistently challenged and pushed out of our comfort zone. It also means a new generation of communications professionals who have been able to specialize in gaming, several of which have found a home at the Mob.

How has The Story Mob changed as esports has grown?
Some of our growth is easy to see with the naked eye – we’ve grown from only three people to over 15 and from kitchen table offices to beautiful offices in Santa Monica for our North American team. Some are a little deeper below the surface – since we started, we’ve hired a team that spans expertise in traditional sports (NBA, NFL), crisis management, publisher relations, entertainment and more. We realized that our expertise went beyond just the competitive edge of gaming – we were serving audiences who were looking for entertainment, style, connections….everything we associate with gaming culture. As such, our offerings have expanded beyond the bleachers.

What are some of the projects you’ve been most proud of?
I’m especially proud of how The Story Mob has helped esports weather the last year, and keep their communications strong and on point when their audience needed them the most. In 2020, we developed remote press rooms, worked with the biggest leagues in esports on how to keep the sparkle without a cheering audience and most importantly how to help fans feel the fun and occasion of a championship in dark times. It feels great to have contributed to something so positive.

What is the biggest challenge (outside of the pandemic) for your company at this stage?
Hiring is our biggest challenge and biggest opportunity. We’re really careful about who we hire as we know that internal culture is fragile and important, and we’re valuable precisely because we understand the gamers we represent. I’m extremely proud of the diverse lineup of talent that have joined the Mob over the last few years, but I’m sure we’ve missed out on talented people because someone else rushed their process and we took it a little slower. This year, we’re streamlining so that we’re still getting to know candidates, but the process is quicker and nimbler.

Although different from esports, how is gaming culture evolved over the past five years?
Gaming’s trajectory has sped up dramatically over the past five years, largely because the lines between what a ‘gamer’ is (or used to be) and the rest of the world have become so blurred. Does watching your favorite streamer taking questions on an IRL stream make you a gamer? Does a weekly game of About Us, or a daily/hourly grind of League? The distinctions are less important. Gaming and gaming culture is a part of all of our digital lives. Just as filmed entertainment democratized from the movie house to TV to the phone in your pocket, gaming isn’t a niche hobby occupied by the few. It’s all of us.

What opportunities are companies missing in this space?
Genuine, unfaked, unpatronizing, non-manufactured opportunities to talk to the millions of female gamers all across the world. We’re still not hitting the mark.


The IOC’s executive board unveiled a new strategic roadmap on Monday, titled Olympic Agenda 2020+5, laying out 15 recommendations for the organization to prioritize over the next five years. Among the initiatives was a plan to “Encourage the development of virtual sports and further engage with video gaming communities.” Included in this program was a move to strengthen the roles and responsibilities of IFs in establishing virtual and simulated forms of sports as a discipline within their regulations and strategies as well as plans to launch unique Olympic products and experiences through virtual and simulated forms of sports, in support of the IOC’s digital engagement strategy. In addition, the IOC would consider the addition of physical virtual sports in the Olympic Programme in cooperation with the respective IFs.

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The next step for addressing the social upheaval and need for African American inclusion in the multibillion-dollar advertising industry is to put accountability in place. In this webinar, a panel of CEOs(stay tuned for speaker updates) will discuss the changes needed to ensure economic equality for Black-Owned Media companies.



1994: The Legend of Zelda is released

Who starred as Guile in the 1994 movie version of Street Fighter? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question
This “Family Matters” star voiced Sonic the Hedgehog across multiple shows. Who was he? Answer: Jaleel White. Kudos: Scott Jenkins-Gracenote/NY; Doug Martin/Charlotte; Luke Watson-Entertaining Concepts/NY; Maryann Renner-UVA/Charlottesville; Creed Heilskov-ImOn Communications/Cedar Rapids; Jason Morrow-Toyota/Houston; David Westberg-SAG•AFTRA Credit Union/Burbank; Greg Dudsic/Venice; Rob Singer/San Francisco; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA

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