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Denmark-based global esports event organizer BLAST recently raised €12.5M ($13.5 million USD) in its latest financial round to invest in future projects. In addition to accelerating its business plans, it has also acquired the rights to hold Dota 2 events. Till now mostly known for holding Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) tournaments, BLAST and its CEO Robbie Douek are excited to jump into the organization’s future during these challenging times. Daily Esports caught up with Douek on what his plan is to keep production quality at its peak while transitioning to hosting online-only events.
BLAST Premier shows no signs of slowing down
Daily Esports: Can you give us insight into the current projects in production?
Robbie Douek: The global tournament series league in CS called BLAST Premier has been live since the start of the year. We kicked off pre-COVID actually, which was fortunate because that was in a studio setting. It was really cool with great viewership numbers. We’ve been interacting with multiple teams throughout the year, and we’re basically producing a bunch of output. I think the statistic is between the end of April and the middle of June we’re at 300 live hours. We’re also launching a format in Dota on the 8th of June, which is called Bounty Hunt, and so we’re working with the six big European teams, and that is really exciting. The rest of the season will be amazing; we’ve got a full season coming through.
How did COVID affect the events BLAST had planned throughout the fundraising, and how does it affect the plans you have for the upcoming months?
Douek: We’re an entertainment business by heart, so everything we do has to lead with this sort of mantra: “We’re really trying to entertain the world, entertain the population, do it slightly differently, and make it really sing and dance.” So there’s going to be a full smorgasbord of stuff coming up for the next six-to-nine months. It’s a really interesting moment in the market, in a format and tournament perspective. For us, it was relatively straightforward. We moved around stuff that was meant to be in an arena and went online straight away.
The challenge is that you want to be in a venue so people can sort of touch and feel their superstars. You don’t get that when you’re not live in an arena. Raising during COVID, the reality is that our premise and proposition is very straightforward, that most of the investors deploying cash understand it. They get that its sports and entertainment together, and they get that esports is on the rise. If you put COVID and you put a fundraiser together, in a way it sort of works.
You guys are doing a great transition, and it’s the same challenges most esports organizers are going through. Of course, there’s going to be technical difficulties and a minimizing in staff, but the show is still going on.
Douek: This is the thing we pride ourselves on. How do you develop the broadcast so that even if you’re forced online, that broadcast is just incredibly compelling for the viewer to watch? That’s critical to the success of our business. When we produce from a broadcast standpoint and tune in for Monday, we are really setting the bar very high for the production. We’re making sure that you really have an experience online that almost mirrors what you would get if you’re in-arena.
In-arena, you know you’re shooting a bunch of content and media, and there’s a bunch of things happening pre-, post-, and during. We’re really going to try to capture most of that even though we’re online. That’s tough to do because from a technical perspective, instead of having 25 (different) IP feeds, you’re actually having 100 IP feeds. It’s very challenging technically from a broadcasting perspective.
Are your marketing plans changing because of COVID?
Douek: We’ve done a bunch of stuff depending on location. For the London series, we did a bunch of content with West Ham, which is a really prominent UK soccer team, and we’ve got more of that to come. I think it’s important to tell the local story to resonate in the destination that we are (in). As a consequence of COVID, lots of the traditional sports titles have been saying, “Actually, we want to get involved in the space. Can you help us?” so there’s quite a lot of inbound coming in and lots of great stories coming out that we’ll certainly be sharing.
Upcoming BLAST Premier Spring Showdown
BLAST is currently gearing up for its newest CSGO tournament of the season. The BLAST Premier Spring Showdown will feature 18 top teams competing for a prize pool of $325,000. The event will run from June 1 through 7, followed by the Premier Spring Final from June 15 through 21. Throughout the next few months, BLAST is looking forward to hosting more events and expanding its plans into a wider audience, including Dota 2 fans. We thank Robbie Douek for taking the time to chat with us. Stick with Daily Esports for more news on esports and gaming.
This interview has been edited for clarity.