Daniel Tsay, the general manager of Call of Duty League, mentioned the league's live viewership, which he claims to have increased by 75% year over year. That indicator would seem to indicate that the CDL, in its fourth year, is on the upswing. However, that positive momentum might come to an end soon.
The CDL will return to YouTube Gaming, the platform the league used exclusively for its first three seasons before suddenly moving to Twitch just before the current season's opener in December 2022, according to Dexerto. However, the league did not sign an exclusive broadcasting agreement with Twitch, meaning the proverbial door for a YouTube return remained open.
The CDL's efforts on Twitch, a franchised CoD league, would be erased if it returns to the Google-owned platform, according to Octane, a fourth of the reigning world champion Los Angeles Thieves' roster.
“If the CDL goes back to YouTube after all the positive growth from co-streams/Twitch culture that’d be a huge L,” Octane said.
Co-streams have quickly become a popular way to watch CDL events, especially when hosted by recently retired OpTic star Scump and popular former FaZe pro ZooMaa. OpTic's former head coach, Rambo, and three-time world champion Karma also host their own watch parties, although they are smaller numbers than the more recent retirees.
Scump's first CDL watch party viewership outperforms the official Call of Duty Twitch stream.
Scump and ZooMaa's Twitch streams total more than 65,000 concurrent viewers, which, when added to the CDL's main English channel, includes around 135,000 people watching a match between the Los Angeles Thieves and the Florida Mutineers in the ongoing second Major in Boston.
If the CDL does revert to YouTube, it's very probable that these watch parties will end. That's not to say that the streamers will dislike CoD esports any less.
YouTube prohibited any Twitch streamers from co-streaming the games in its original broadcasting contract with the CDL. This notably resulted in 100 Thieves and L.A. Thieves owner Nadeshot, a former CoD pro himself, giving up his Twitch partnership just so he could co-stream CDL matches involving his team.
Even if YouTube permitted Twitch co-streaming for some reason, the league's live content being hidden away from most casual esports and gaming enthusiasts' eyes is certainly not helpful in growing a league in desperate need of attention.
The league needs something more: money.
Jacob Wolf reported that the CDL teams owed Activision Blizzard an average of $22.5 million after the high-dollar franchise payments were put on hold in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 epidemic. At the time of Wolf's report, there were discussions to extend the payments till 2024.
Even if huge payments had been made, the league's alleged large salaries and relatively small viewership—Call of Duty did not appear in Esports Charts' top five of most-watched esports games in 2022—do not appear to equal a profit.
Therefore, a media rights agreement, which almost every single traditional sports league relies on to explain record-breaking player contracts, would seem appropriate to generate revenue for the CDL. However, a financially wise move doesn't mean fans, players, and esports as a whole are better off with the CDL returning to YouTube, as it may be argued.
Despite consistently flawed games, a spirited and dedicated community that has pushed forward despite the demise of Search and Destroy tournaments and GameBattles, unpopular path-to-pro systems, and broadcasting rights that have moved between Twitch and MLG.tv many times over the previous decade.
CoD will always be remembered. It doesn't matter if the tournaments are being held at Fenway Park as this weekend's, at the Forum in Inglewood, Nationwide Arena, or in a tiny room in some convention center. What matters is the game's passion, the trash talk, and the enthusiasm.
Why is this so? Because computation is everything.