Valve and tournament operators continue to fight piracy. Who will be the winner?
"Principles are more valuable than money" and the first tournaments with new rules
Since ancient times, every smart person on Earth knows: if something is left unattended, there might be a person who wants to appropriate it. In our technical era, we can consider various content on the Internet as such things. The official matches' broadcasts from tournament operators became the bone of contention.
Dota TV has been available to everyone for many years. Based on this openness, an entire culture of amateur streaming of official matches in the game has grown. It is quite a normal case because an ordinary streamer is free from any restrictions that the official broadcast has. They can safely condemn the players' moves, say curse words, burst into an abusive speech in the middle of a hot fight on the map, and arrange any show for viewers. In general, do everything that is not prohibited by the Twitch rules.
Such charismatic streamers like Papich (aka Arthas), AdmiralBulldog, and SingSing quickly realized the profits for them in this activity. Even Eugeniy "Sh4dowehhh" Alekseev, who participated at our WePlay Pushka League tournament as a studio analyst, joined them. By the way, one of the main dramas in the RU community related to the piracy of official matches from tournament operators was connected with Eugeniy. We will talk about it further.
The tension builds
In the blink of an eye, the quiet grumbling of people involved in esports turned into an open complaint of the Dota TV broadcast "stealing" facts. Unlike CS:GO, in which GOTV is available only to chosen ones, except the Majors, Dota 2 games are broadcasted to everyone. The community, as always, was divided into two warring camps. Some argue that such a system is a symbol of healthy competition when the viewer chooses what to watch. Their opponents (and this is not only the TO themselves) have the opinion that the tournament operator has exclusive rights to all content from its own tournament, including broadcasting from the game. In the end, if TO hadn't organized a tournament, the streamers of that kind would have had nothing to do.
Back in May 2020, Kyle "Kyle" Friedman analyzed the issue that regular streamers often "steal" content from tournament operators, depriving them of the significant amount of the audience. According to the analyst, thousands of viewers on their channels during official matches influence the broadcasting ecosystem and spoil the overall statistics. It directly affects the market monetization, sponsorship contracts, and the ability to host tournaments in the future.
Vitalii "V1lat" Volochay [famous RU-community commentator and analyst] supported Kyle in his opinion: he actively joined the fight against "stealing" the audience from TO by third-party streamers this year [direct translation of his text]:
"In all this regular discussion of absolutely understandable concepts of "exclusive rights to show tournaments" I am pleased with all the streamers who save the community by the fact that they stream the match, not like ****** (bad) studios or tournament operators but do it right, they draw the viewer's attention to micro-moments and generally do what ESL, WePlay and Starladder will never do in the official broadcasts.
I have a suggestion. If you are making such cool, high-quality and important content for our community, then why not take an example from Yaroslav NS Kuznetsov, who analyzes the games in tournaments to which he has no rights, but AFTER MATCHES. Thus, without violating any rights and really acting in the spirit of the game, as requested by VALVE. And of course, no tournament operator will have anything against such content; on the contrary, they will even support it.
For all the arguments a la "I can't listen to this Vilat / Godhant / Mila / Kasper / Adekvat [ru-community talents - ed.], so I'd prefer a stream of Iceberg / Gorgс / Sh4dowehhh / Bulldog" I can suggest watching the same matches with your favourite streamers, but an hour after the match - you're welcome. The game is over - and they calmly download the replay and watch. They can even cover up the entire screen in sponsors. Isn't there a way out of the situation? Everyone is happy! And the tournaments are happy because they can show the game live, and the streamers are happy because they don't behave like a ***ers who don't care about everyone around, and the audience is happy because they will be able to watch the match ANY WAY THEY LIKE!"
By the way, Henrik "AdmiralBulldog" Ahnberg didn't agree with Kyle Friedman's blog and took this "attack" too close. Bulldog is famous for regularly casting official matches to a vast audience. Henrik stated on Twitter that his viewership wouldn't necessarily have switched to the official broadcast if he turned off the stream. True, the former professional player deleted this tweet a little later, so as not to escalate the situation. Moreover, Ahnberg heeded the requests of tournament operators and didn't comment on OMEGA League on his Twitch channel, which cannot be said about the rest of the streamers.
Some organizations have reconsidered their attitude towards contracts with independent streamers. So, OG had to part ways with Janne "Gorgc" Stefanovski, who was the club's official streamer. Janne himself was supposed to cast the games of his team since the rules of the tournaments "didn't forbid" this.
Indeed, his streams sometimes attracted even more viewers than the official broadcasts did. This happened at the ESL One Los Angeles European Qualifiers.
This changed when OG took part in OMEGA League. In this case, the club didn't want to create a conflict of interest and share the audience from the official streams with Gorgc, which is why they decided to part ways with the popular streamer. However, Stefanovski didn't stop there and continued to stream tournaments, already as an independent caster. The problem remained, and the community began to demand active intervention from Valve.
This is a very big deal.— JJ - PimpmuckL (@JJLiebig) August 20, 2020
Now that og was directly involved in creating tournaments, suddenly a non official streamer (even their own!!!) was exactly what every TO has been saying all along:
A threat to the tournament.
Valve, it's time to move finally. https://t.co/K6yIXsj7FZ
A new round of conflicts
In early September, the hype continued. The case was about the "stealing" of content by other popular streamers from the aforementioned OMEGA League. Once again, Kyle Friedman couldn't resist and posted another blog called "The elephant in the room". There, the analyst recalled SingSing's words: "hey guys lets get some free content today", as well as the name of his stream "omega league content kinda day." Kyle once again tried to explain why it is so important to preserve the exclusivity rights of the tournament operator, and it seems that his words were heard.
For a long time, Valve remained silent, and many assumed that this was a kind of "sign of agreement" with the current state of affairs. On September 4, the developers broke the silence and released an official statement, where the topic of "piracy" of Dota 2 tournaments was mentioned. Valve made it clear that they had heard about the problem and proposed a solution. According to the post, starting September 15, 2020, tournament organizers will provide "community streamers with a reasonable and simple to execute set of non-monetary requirements, such as displaying the organizer's sponsors on their streams or having a slight delay on the games," and only streamers who agree to these terms will be able to stream matches via Dota TV.
It should be said that there was so much understatement in Valve's words that many didn't understand how this could be implemented in practice.
In theory, this really should have made the ecosystem healthier, but streamers, Sh4dowehhh in particular, decided to take to Twitter with his feelings on the matter. On his Twitter, Eugeniy decided to trick Vitalii "V1lat" Volochai, who also expresses his dissatisfaction with the content "stealing/" The streamer made fun of the situation in which he would have to put sponsor logos on his broadcast. Kyle Friedman reacted with irony to Sh4dowehhh's post:
Vilat didn't stand aside:
Очень смешной мемчик!!!— Vitalii Volochai (@v1lat) September 8, 2020
P.S. Если бы ты обращал внимание на что-то кроме коэфициэнтов на париматче, то знал бы что Вилат турниры не организовывает.
Удачи в переговорах с ESL, Dreamhack, PGL, ЕЕЕ и Dotapit. Если надо помощь - пиши. Поможем, поддержим, подскажем.
"Very funny meme!!!
P.S. If you paid attention to something other than the Parimatch's odds, you would know that V1lat doesn't organize tournaments.
Good luck with ESL, Dreamhack, PGL, EEE and Dotapit. If you need help, write. We will help, support, and give a piece of advice."
The organizers of BTS Pro Series 3 were the first to work with the new rules. They released a list of requirements for streamers on September 15, when Valve's decision took effect.
Re: BTS Pro Series 3 & Community Streamers— BTS Dota (@BTSdota) September 15, 2020
We've had a lot of requests about streaming BTS Pro Series under the updated Valve DotaTV and Streaming policy that starts September 15th - https://t.co/c4OptMQ5ya
In particular, streamers were required to set a delay of 5 minutes from the broadcast on Dota TV.
A new round of events took place on September 20, when a document appeared on Reddit, which reflected the new rules for the OGA Dota PIT Season 3 unofficial streamers. The tournament operator asked the casters to establish the approved schedule of the tournament, as well as to use advertising integrations required under sponsorship contracts. Moreover, they demanded that the streamers even change the design of the channel, including putting a plug on the off-stream. There was also a requirement to set a 6-minutes delay from the official broadcast.
This decision hurt the pride of streamers. They were joined by viewers who considered the conditions too harsh.
How to break the system
Tough times call for creative solutions. Eugeniy "Sh4dowehhh" Alekseev decided not to stop his activity and not to enter into a dialogue with the tournament operators. He also decided to bypass the Valve rules.
Eugeniy set a picture from the usual Dota 2 menu on his stream, at the same time, he opened a match between the ViKin.gg and 5men teams from the OGA Dota PIT Season 3 tournament in the background and commented on it. Thus, his viewers could open the official stream, turn off the sound, and listen to the Sh4dowehhh's comments. According to Eugeniy, he did it to get back at the tournament organizers.
The organizers of ESL One Germany 2020 Online also took Valve's new rules seriously. The tournament operator's official Twitter has published the rules for independent streamers:
The fight against piracy is becoming a collective one. There are two pillars of confrontation. There is no point in guessing who will win: on one side — the audience's love for their idols, on the other — big-money, production, and the fate of esports in general. We sincerely hope that the parties involved in the conflict will be able to agree peacefully.
There is no serious and full-fledged research on how effectively streamers take the audience from studios and tournament operators. Escharts.com has published a small investigation on this topic, but it cannot be taken as an axiom. This requires the intervention of serious analysts, who can show in numbers who really suffer from the actions of the "pirates" and how this affects future tournaments. The issue is especially serious in a pandemic. Perhaps after this, many parties to the conflict, who still value their reputation, will reconsider their views on their activities.