The CDL is reportedly destined to leave Twitch.
Just days ago, during a poorly received community update, Call of Duty League general manager Daniel Tsay touted the league’s live viewership, which he said had increased 75 percent year-over-year. That number would seem to indicate that the CDL, in its fourth year, is on the upswing. But that positive momentum may come to a screeching halt soon.
Dexerto reported earlier today that the CDL is set to return to YouTube Gaming, the platform the league had exclusively broadcast its matches on for the first three seasons before suddenly moving to Twitch just ahead of the current season’s opener in December 2022. But the league did not sign an exclusive broadcasting deal with Twitch, according to Dexerto, meaning the proverbial door for a YouTube return remained open.
If the CDL does make its way back to the Google-owned platform and again become exclusive to it, the progress the franchised CoD league had seemingly made over the past few months on Twitch will be erased, a sentiment already expressed by 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 thatd be a huge L,” Octane tweeted.
Co-streams have quickly become a popular way to watch CDL events, particularly when those co-streams, or watch parties as they are often called, are hosted by the likes of 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 despite much smaller numbers than the more recent retirees.
Related: Scumps first-ever CDL watch party viewership dwarfs official Call of Duty Twitch stream
At time of writing, Scump and ZooMaa’s Twitch streams combine for more than 65,000 concurrent viewers, which, when added to the CDL’s main English channel, totals around 135,000 people watching a match between the Los Angeles Thieves and Florida Mutineers at the ongoing second Major in Boston.
If the CDL does ultimately move back to YouTube, it’s very likely these watch parties will end. That’s not because the streamers will like CoD esports any less, though.
In its initial broadcasting deal with the CDL, YouTube barred any partnered Twitch streamers from co-streaming the matches. This notably led to 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. It would be foolish for any Twitch partner, but especially Scump or ZooMaa, to do anything similar.
Even if YouTube allowed Twitch co-streams for some reason, the league’s live content being tucked away from most casual esports and gaming fans’ eyes is undoubtedly not helpful in growing a league in desperate need of attention.
But the league needs something else: money.
In May 2022, Jacob Wolf reported the CDL teams owed an average of $22.5 million to Activision Blizzard after the high-dollar franchise payments were put on hold in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of Wolf’s report, there had been discussions to further delay the payments, possibly until 2024.
Even if these massive payments had been coming in, the league’s rumored large salaries and relatively small viewershipCall of Duty did not rank in Esports Charts’ top five of the most-watched esports games of 2022do not seem to add up to equal a profit.
So a media rights deal, something nearly every single traditional sports league relies on to explain record-breaking player contracts, would seem necessary to generate revenue for the CDL. A financially wise move doesn’t mean the fans, players, and esports as a whole are better off with the CDL returning to YouTube, however. It can be argued that CoD esports is not better off in this era of the CDL.
But it’s something CoD fans seem destined to deal with, a common theme for a loud and proud community that has pushed forward despite consistently flawed games, a severe lack of developer support, the demise of Search and Destroy tournaments and GameBattles, unpopular path-to-pro systems, and broadcasting rights moving between Twitch, the defunct MLG.tv, and YouTube several times over the last decade.
If history has taught us anything, CoD will endure. It doesn’t matter if the tournaments are being played at Fenway Park like this weekend’s, the Forum in Inglewood, Nationwide Arena, or in a tiny room in some convention center. What actually matters is the passion, the trash talk, and the love for the game.
Why? Because CoD is life.