Empire Play: The challenges with esports broadcasting in the Middle East

Broadcast and media rights for esports has become an ever-changing topic in recent years, with platforms such as Twitch and Youtube striking exclusive streaming rights to some of the sector’s biggest titles. 

Moreover, traditional media has also opted to invest in broadcasting esports, such as the BBC airing live League of Legends on its online platforms, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, while most of the world is developing media frameworks around esports, the Middle East has had a somewhat difficult time with regards to marketing competitive gaming to a wider audience, particularly to broadcasters.

At ESI Digital Summer’s ‘The fragmentation challenge and esports broadcast rights in the Middle East’ panel, Empire Play’s esports executive Edward Kondrat explained the difficulty for Middle Eastern countries to broadcast esports, citing that it is partly due to the lack of Arabic-language OTT platforms.

Kondrat stated: “We’ve been testing ourselves whether to do the broadcasts on Facebook, YouTube or Twitch. For us as a broadcasting studio, one of the issues with Facebook is that the viewership stats are so intransparent.

“Now, YouTube as a live stream locally, is a dead platform simply if you go and you open all of the live challenge channels right now and filtered out by Arabic, you would see that Twitch has 10 times, 50 times more streamers that are active in Arabic on Twitch. 

“Now, one thing though, which is important is that Twitch is not in Arabic. Every streamer that goes through all of these settings and rules, affiliate agreements, partner agreements and all of that most probably fully understands English.

“So they might as well just just stream in English to have a larger audience and to have more people potentially watching them. And in time, that’s what’s happening.

“There is only one reason why a potential platform might appear within the region if Twitch does not revise its website, it’s for Arabic language. Lots of Saudis, I’m sure, would be able to livestream it in goodwill.”

However Jamie Ryder, DLA Piper’s partner for media, sport & entertainment in Dubai warned of the risks of creating a platform, using Mixer’s downfall as an example of how difficult the industry is. 

In turn, Ryder suggested that gaining more linear broadcast rights could help grow esports in the Middle East.

“I think there is an opportunity for large scale growth for an Arabic platform and original Arabic gaming titles,” he said. “But ultimately, it comes down to a question of monetisation.”

“The best example to underline this is Mixer, which as everybody will know, just shut down at the end of July. Given that Mixer had Microsoft’s full backing, it brought in the likes of Ninja and Shroud at great expense.

“If an entity like Microsoft feels that it…

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