Legal battle looms in China over Dota event streaming rights
Every Dota fan has had their eyes peeled on the Dota 2 Asia Championship since the tournament leaked multiple high-profile roster moves over the past several weeks. Now, Chinese streaming sites are stirring more controversy, this time over the right to showcase the hottest tournament outside of Seattle.
With the finals only two weeks away, Huomao TV and Douyu TV are horn-locked over the right to broadcast the event. More specifically, Huomao, which maintains it has an agreement with Chinese Dota gatekeeper Perfect World, alleges that Douyu is stealing from the company by broadcasting live-streams of the tournament, all while spreading false rumors of a similar agreement.
The incident resembles a similar altercation faced by Call of Duty side Evil Geniuses in 2014. In that case, Major League Gaming took the North American team to task for broadcasting official MLG tournaments on Twitch, despite the requirement that these tournaments be streamed on MLG's proprietary platform, MLG.tv.
In Evil Geniuses' case, the squad faced automatic forfeits for all matches streamed on Twitch. In the Huomao and Douyu case, Huomao has threatened legal action against if the unauthorized broadcasts do not stop.
However, neither of these penalties appears particularly steep when one considers the value of streaming viewership in the esports realm. In MLG's case, securing exclusive broadcasts of the most popular players in Call of Duty was part of a concerted strategy to steal even a modicum of Twitch's viewership, which, as of July, began to rival major cable networks in terms of volume.
But even this is nothing compared to the volume of streaming traffic that Chinese sites enjoy as esports continues its rise.
While Twitch's top streamers enjoy tens of thousands of viewers on a routine basis, with official events reaching into the hundreds of thousands, these numbers pail in comparison to Chinese streamers. As of publication, current Big God member Zhang "Xiao8" Ning could be found playing for an audience of 120,000 on Douyu TV. Chinese Dota legend and fellow Big God member Xu "Burning" Zhilei routinely enjoys an audience of over 300 thousand.
Needless to say, the premier showcase of Chinese Dota in the country known for exemplary Dota means big bucks for those hosting the proceedings.
Furthermore, Douyu and Huomao have other competitors to consider, perhaps none larger than Youku Tudou. At 500 million users and daily video views surpassing 800 million, according to the company, Youku has even gone so far as to release proprietary hardware and a cloud entertainment service to optimize its online streaming capabilities.
With the finals just around the corner, it is unclear how the dispute will end. Suffice it to say, however, that neither site is likely to back down from an opportunity to score major ad revenue when the event reaches its climax in Shanghai.