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Volume 26 No. 89

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Blevins will host his first Mixer live stream Friday from Lollapalooza in Chicago
Photo: getty images
Blevins will host his first Mixer live stream Friday from Lollapalooza in Chicago
Photo: getty images
Blevins will host his first Mixer live stream Friday from Lollapalooza in Chicago
Photo: getty images

Pro gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins has "left Twitch and is taking his video game live streams to Microsoft’s Mixer platform, a stunning switch that could have wide-ranging consequences" for the esports industry, according to Jake Seiner of the AP. The move ends a "hugely profitable partnership with Twitch." Blevins has "earned millions broadcasting himself playing Fortnite and other video games on Twitch and YouTube," and he has "over 14 million followers on Twitch." Blevins will "host his first Mixer live stream Friday from Lollapalooza" in Chicago. He has "publicly invited" Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf, who won the inaugural Fortnite World Cup last weekend, to "join him" on Mixer. Blevins said that he "will not actively recruit other gamers to leave their current platform." However, Seiner noted if more streamers "follow him to Mixer, it could become a legitimate competitor in a market dominated by Twitch." Mixer launched in '16 but "hasn’t nearly matched Twitch’s popularity" -- Microsoft "reported 10 million monthly users last year, compared to well over 100 million for Twitch," which launched in '11 (AP, 8/1). In DC, Tramel Raggs noted Blevins was the "top trending topic on Twitter in the United States within an hour of his announcement," while his Mixer account "already surpassed 100,000 followers" within four hours of Thursday's announcement (WASHINGTON POST, 8/1).

NOT ABOUT MONEY: In N.Y., Mariel Padilla notes Niles Heron, an exec at Blevins’ management company Loaded, declined to comment on how much Blevins "was being paid as part of the deal, but said that 'the decision was overwhelmingly not driven by the monetary value.'" Heron added that the opportunity to "attract new viewers was a consideration" in Blevins' move. Heron also said that Mixer, with its direct connection to Xbox -- both are owned by Microsoft -- has a "generally more youthful audience because younger gamers are more likely to play on consoles than personal computers" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/2).

MIXING IT UP: A quick look at Google Trends shows how much interest in Mixer soared in the U.S. after Ninja’s announcement. In the last five years, Mixer has never had more Google search interest than Twitch in the U.S., and at 4:00am ET on Thursday, that was still the case. Twitch had an interest of 100, while Mixer was stuck at 9. On Google Trends, a value of 100 equals peak popularity for the term; a value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Blevins made his announcement at 12:48pm on Twitter; by 1:00pm, Mixer was at 86 on Google Trends, while Twitch trailed at 53. Globally, Twitch’s Google search interest stayed right with Mixer in many major esports locales, likely because Fortnite -- Blevins's primary game of choice -- is not as popular in other parts of the world (Bret McCormick, THE DAILY).

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.

The NWSL on Friday "announced an extension of its partnership with Nike" through the end of the '22 season, according to Mitchell Northam of PRO SOCCER USA. The current deal between the league and Nike was "set to expire at the end of this season." Since the end of the '19 Women’s World Cup, the league has "seen a major boost in attendance." Clubs like the Chicago Red Stars and Sky Blue FC "have seen record-setting crowds." Nike is also the "maker and seller of the U.S. women’s national team kits" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 8/2). This deal comes on the heels of the NWSL in July announcing that ESPN "would broadcast games" for the rest of the season. The league also recently "announced a sponsorship deal with Budweiser" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/2).

STAYING POWER: In N.Y., Kevin Draper notes NWSL President Amanda Duffy is working to parlay American soccer fans' "post-World Cup interest into long-term gains" for the women's league. Duffy said that she was "'optimistic' more national sponsorship deals would be signed," and that she is "already hunting for a long-term television agreement." The league's recently-signed deal with ESPN only lasts through the NWSL championship in October, "doesn’t pay the league a rights fee and relegates most of its games it airs to the network’s second-tier ESPNews channel." Sponsors and media deals can "easily disappear if the league cannot stabilize and grow." But the "biggest barrier to fans’ attending and watching games may not be that they choose not to, but that they don’t know the league exists." The NWSL has "had time to learn some lessons," but in its seven years has "never been on sure footing." Three NWSL teams have "folded or left," and Duffy is the "third person to be in charge of the league." For the long-term play to succeed, the NWSL "needs committed ownership groups that are willing to suffer losses, but there is ongoing debate about how those groups should be structured." Five NWSL teams currently have affiliations with a men’s pro team while the remaining four are independent. Affiliation gives NWSL teams "access to greater operational resources, but there are fears that an ownership group with both a men’s and a women’s team will always prioritize the men" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/1).

During Garber's time at the helm, MLS has expanded from 12 to 27 clubs and developed 19 soccer stadiums
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown
During Garber's time at the helm, MLS has expanded from 12 to 27 clubs and developed 19 soccer stadiums
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown
During Garber's time at the helm, MLS has expanded from 12 to 27 clubs and developed 19 soccer stadiums
Photo: Marc Bryan-Brown

MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Sunday will celebrate his 20th anniversary running America’s top soccer league, having grown it to 27 teams with three more set to begin play in the next two years. With 20 years now in the books, THE DAILY looks back at some of the most notable moments during Garber’s tenure.

AUGUST 1999: Garber leaves the NFL to take over as MLS’ next commissioner, replacing Doug Logan. Garber came on at a difficult time for the league, which had only 12 teams and was facing skepticism from the American public. Garber’s first task: broadening the young league’s fan base and improving attendance across the board.

JANUARY 2002: MLS announces a five-year broadcast agreement with ABC and ESPN that includes MLS television rights and rights to the next two FIFA World Cup tournaments. The deal also includes rights to the ‘03 Women’s World Cup.

NOVEMBER 2004: MLS and the MLS Players Union reach a deal on the first CBA in league history, to run through the end of the ‘09 season. The agreement includes graduated minimum salary increases, 401k, guaranteed health benefits, improved life insurance and a neutral arbitration system. Labor is one issue MLS can put aside for now.

SEPTEMBER 2006: The league announces that it will begin placing ads on the front of players’ jerseys in the '07 season. MLS establishes a floor of $500,000 a year for uniform sponsors, with the league collecting a flat fee of about $200,000 from all deals. The league also has the authority to reject deals and won’t allow hard liquor or Internet casinos to buy space.

MARCH 2010: MLS and the MLSPU reach agreement on a new five-year labor deal less than a week before the regular season kicks off. The players come away with some concessions -- notably, a bump in compensation and an increase in guaranteed contracts -- but it is the league that wins out on the contentious issue of free agency.

AUGUST 2010: The MLS BOG approves a contract extension for Garber through ‘14. The four-year deal includes incentives and performance goals that could push his total pay to more than $3M annually. MLS owners expect Garber over the length of this contract to improve the league's television ratings, develop the league's new media business and develop the league's quality of play.

AUGUST 2011: MLS signs a three-year deal with NBC that will see regular-season games return to English-language broadcast television for the first time since ‘08. The deal is valued at $10M per year. The new broadcast partnership provides the league with a chance to grow its base.

JANUARY 2014: Garber signs a new five-year contract that will keep him in his position through the end of ‘18. By now, he has guided MLS through several waves of expansion that has nearly doubled its size from 10 to 19 franchises.

APRIL 2014: Garber is diagnosed with prostate cancer. Doctors say the cancer has not spread. He begins treatment at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in N.Y., to be followed by surgery at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Garber continues managing the league during treatment. In September, he announces he is cancer-free and needs no further treatment.

MAY 2014: MLS signs new eight-year media rights deals with ESPN, Fox and Univision. ESPN and Fox will pay a combined average of $75M for English-language rights to MLS and U.S. Soccer matches. Univision’s Spanish-language deal averages $15M per year. The agreements are priced five times higher than the average annual value of the league's current media deals.

JULY 2015: MLS announces a new CBA. The new CBA is a five-year deal that creates free agency for players 28 years of age or older, with at least eight years of experience. The deal comes at the end of a tense standoff between the league and the players, with free agency and player compensation representing the two major sticking points.

FEBRUARY 2019: MLS extends Garber’s contract through the ’23 season. He will be 66 by the end of this latest deal. During his time at the helm, MLS has expanded from 12 to 27 clubs, added many new owners and developed 19 soccer stadiums in the U.S. and Canada. Later, in May, Garber won the award for Executive of the Year at the Sports Business Awards.