After a tumultuous few weeks in the Dota 2 scene, Valve has spoken up with a surprisingly detailed (detailed for Valve) blog post about their plans for the competitive scene AND an elusive ruling on the topic of exclusivity and broadcast rights for professional matches.
Before we dive in, a bit of background on the two issues at hand.
Back in February, Valve announced that the 2020-2021 DPC season would consist of three majors, no minors, and a series of online regional leagues. However, in light of the global pandemic and the postponement of TI10, the entire schedule was thrown into chaos. While we as a community expected delays and an unconventional year, the regional leagues seemed like the obvious stop gap for the scene while we waited for the return of in person events. Valve didn't see it that way.
In the above tweet, Valve announced that pretty much everything was on hold - and the community was NOT happy. Players, casters, and community members saw a reliable future deteriorate with questions of stability plaguing everyone. This morning's announcement about Geek Fam and Reality Rift dropping their rosters, with the lack of a DPC system being a large factor in the decision.
The topic of broadcast exclusivity isn't new at all, and our article last week sums up most of the history around it. However it was a tweet from Kyle attacking SingSing (and a subsequent apology and longer explanation) that really got the conversation going again. The ultimate problem is most simply described as this: Valve's stance on non-tournament affiliated casters is that they were free to broadcast and cover tournament streams, depriving tournament organizers of the ability to provide exclusivity to sponsors. This impacts TOs abilities to fund their tournaments, limits the talent they can hire, and deprives them of the budget to innovate and improve.
Valve has decided to update their stance on third party streamers, stating that "Organizers that run Dota 2 Tournaments will have to provide community streamers with a reasonable and simple to execute set of non-monetary requirements, such as displaying the organizers sponsors on their streams or having a slight delay on the games. Community streamers will be able to use the DotaTV feed in their broadcast as long as they agree to those requirements."
While this isn't exactly exclusivity, it does ensure that tournament sponsors will have visibility on ALL tournament coverage.
We ultimately still believe that community streamers providing their own commentary of a tournament is a net positive value to fans and the competitive scene. We also believe that in the long term, the tournament themselves benefit from additional exposure to fans of those community streamers. However, it is true that this can cause a short term loss of revenue as well as a reduced ability to monetize more effectively for tournament organizers. Starting September 15, the Dota license we will be updated to reflect the following: Organizers that run Dota 2 Tournaments will have to provide community streamers with a reasonable and simple to execute set of non-monetary requirements, such as displaying the organizers sponsors on their streams or having a slight delay on the games. Community streamers will be able to use the DotaTV feed in their broadcast as long as they agree to those requirements.
Unfortunately, as with many Valve blog posts, we are left with a few questions. Will TOs have the ability to DMCA community streamers that do not follow their posted guidelines? Or does that responsibility still lie with Valve? (This might just be answered by someone with a better understanding of what the term 'Dota license' covers and means in this case). Will TOs comply with providing 'simple' requirements? Or will they intentionally ignore and block out streamers they don't want covering their event? How far ahead of a time will a streamer need to clear covering a game?
This is a step, but a first step. (And almost identical to the one they took with CSGO last year). A step that does, once again, leave out a lot of specifics and leave the onus on the TOs to navigate community backlash for looking to protect their sponsor relationships.
The majority of the blog post looks to give some clarity around TI10 and resuming the normal DPC system, as well as justifying the lack of regional leagues. The quick takes are these: TI10 will likely be in Stockholm with an aim of August 2021. Valve hopes to resume the DPC starting in early 2021 if possible. There will be no DPC point related events until that time, and EU/CIS/China have a lot of unannounced third party events planned for the next several months. They also state that they will be looking to provide assistance to run events in the regions that currently look pretty empty.
However, there are still going to be a lot of teams, casters, organizers and fans around the world that are not going to be meaningfully served based on the current trajectory and that is our fault for not pushing on those and supporting them enough. With that in mind, we’ve started reaching out to many more tournament organizers to offer help and financial support in order to be able to create increased coverage globally for the remainder of the year
Not exactly. Communication and some transparency are both very helpful, but in a scene where everything has been about getting to TI (or at least to a LAN) - a series of fairly meaningless online events with the same casters, the same players, and nothing really on the line (what's $100K in light of a 34 million dollar event?).
North and South America as well as South East Asia have, are, and will struggle without the DPC to guarantee visibility to sponsors. Viewers struggle to find a reason to care while watching these games, and the rivalries between teams doesn't mean much when nothing is really on the line.
This last part comes as a bit of doom and gloom - but obviously this isn't all bad. The community has a better idea of what is coming for them, and teams and players know that there are plans for resuming the DPC at some point in the semi near future. But as always, we are left a bit lacking on specifics and the hands on approach many crave.