ESL has announced a deal with Facebook that will make the social media site its "main broadcast partner" for CS:GO Pro League and ESL One events. The move will enable ESL to offer esports fans "a much more advanced viewing experience which also connects to the existing Facebook pages of teams, players and talents."
One of the driving forces behind the decision to partner with Facebook is Facebook Watch, a video-on-demand service announced last year that supports 1080p/60fps and VR streaming. Facebook's "viewing with friends" function, which enables private chats with Facebook friends who are also watching the broadcasts, and Messenger service will also encourage a more "collaborative experience," as ESL described it, when watching streams.
"For years ESL has used Facebook to nurture its global community while broadening the audience for esports competition to millions of fans worldwide," Facebook Games Partnerships global director Leo Olebe said. "Having two of ESL’s most adored properties for CS:GO and Dota 2 streaming exclusively on Facebook is the next step in our efforts to delight the passionate esports community on Facebook."
The move to Facebook might seem like an odd one to esports fans used to getting their fix on Twitch, and replies to the announcement on Twitter make it clear that fans aren't universally thrilled with the new primary platform. But ESL expects that it will actually help expand its viewership and bring esports further into the mainstream. "We’re excited to now be at a stage where we can take the next step towards realizing our shared ambition to grow the overall esports audience and to bring our sports to an even broader group of viewers than ever before," the company said.
The cost of the deal wasn't announced, but I'm willing to venture that it was probably steep. SportsBusiness Daily reported last week that Twitch paid $90 million for a two-year streaming deal with the Overwatch League.
ESL streaming on Facebook will begin with Dota 2 at ESL One Genting, running January 23-28, and CS: Pro League Season 7 on February 13. If you can't watch on Facebook, or for some reason just don't want to, embedded streams will still be viewable on the ESL website.