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After running last year’s Universal Open Rocket League tournament exclusively on Twitch, NBC Sports Group has expanded this year’s distribution of the event to YouTube. Content will be streamed on a new Universal Open YouTube channel, created specifically to host the competition. Meanwhile, the Twitch channel will continue to be run by FaceIt, the organization that co-developed the tournament with NBC Sports.
This announcement comes just in time for the closed qualifiers which begin this upcoming Tuesday. Afterward, NBC will follow-up with coverage on their website and the NBCSports app for the regional finals in July.
Rocky start for the Rocket League Universal Open
Unsurprisingly, the decision to expand to another platform comes from NBC executives in an effort to increase the viewing audience. Rob Simmelkjaer, senior VP of NBC Sports Ventures, said:
Our goal with Universal Open Rocket League is to reach as many fans in the Rocket League and esports communities as possible. Our live streams on Twitch and YouTube, aligned with streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, plus linear coverage on NBCSN, allow us to super serve the esports ecosystem with comprehensive coverage of Universal Open Rocket League.
Considering last season’s viewership numbers, it seems the studio is desperate for a boost. According to data compiled by The Next Level Media, the inaugural season’s grand finals were near the bottom of 2017’s televised esports ratings.
The first broadcast attracted a measly 34,000 total viewers, while the re-run fared slightly better with 64,000 viewers. However, these numbers aren’t anywhere close to what other networks pulled. While this was NBC’s highest performing program, it was eclipsed by ESPN2’s FIFA coverage and every program that TBS aired.
How NBC can improve the situation
Aside from increasing the availability of streaming services, NBC Sports is also inking new endorsement deals. Announced today, this year’s tournament is endorsed by Brisk Iced Tea. Brisk’s coverage of the event will include a commercial featuring Rocket League casters Caleb “WavePunk” Simmons and Mike “Quinn Lobdell” Behrouzi. In addition, fans will be treated to special behind-the-scenes footage of their favorite casters during the tournament.
While Rocket League will never reach as wide of an audience as, say, Candy Crush, the new platforms will likely give the game a nice boost to viewership. The game itself is still performing well. Though it’s no longer close to achieving its peak player base, Rocket League still had an average of 32k concurrent players on Steam over the past month. With 5,000 players competing to enter last year’s Grand Finals, we can expect even greater numbers this year. And although the televised numbers may have been low, the event’s arena was sold-out with fans eager to see who would win the grand prize of $100,000.
Whether your platform of choice is Twitch or YouTube, you can watch the Universal Open grand finals during the weekend of August 24. In the meantime, you can catch some exhibition matches for the Rocket League Championship League at the Rocket League birthday celebration on July 13.