DATA.BET’s Bogdan Holovnov on the Future Outlook of BLAST Premier

Published: Jun 30, 2024 - Last Updated: Jul 2, 2024

BLAST recently announced a major overhaul to its Premier format. The new approach looks to create a sustainable ecosystem, provide direct financial aid to competing teams, while providing stability for both the company’s future operations and all stakeholders within their circuit. Why was this required? In this article we aim to find out. Let’s dig deeper into the specifics, and see if BLAST has discovered the winning formula.

blast: explore professional esports systems, with data.bet

Economic (In)stability in Esports as a Catalyst for Change

Currently, BLAST organizes tournaments for Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, Rocket League, Dota 2 (BLAST Slam, a Dota 2 circuit commencing in late 2024), and, of course, Counter-Strike.

While the recent changes are focused on Counter-Strike, they may set a template for all future competitions organized by BLAST.

Years ago, esports was inflated as a sphere about to bring great riches, thanks in part to Dota 2 The International’s multi-million prize pools, which attracted investors. Large sums were poured into the sector without considering how they would be recouped in the short term, as investors were confident in getting significant revenues a few years later.

The market was overheated, with excessively high player salaries. In early 2016, market intelligence provider Newzoo predicted that by 2019, the average annual revenue per esports fan would be $6 under a conservative scenario and could optimistically reach $11. Though this is still less than the $15 per fan in classic basketball, it was very promising for a young, rising sector.

However, by 2019, the actual average annual revenue per fan was less than $4.95, revealing the reality of inflated expectations. Esports executives faced a significant challenge, especially clubs focused on Counter-Strike, where Valve, the developer, does not support teams or regulate professionals as Riot does for League of Legends.

The early 20s and a massive shift to online content consumption over the past three years covered up some weaknesses in the esports operating model. By 2023, investors started seeking returns on their investments, and for the next 18 months the keyword was “esports winter.”

Both tournament organizers and esports teams are seeking ways to get or stay profitable, and BLAST might have yet again had have a way forward.

Staying Net Positive is a Critical Challenge

The IPOs of two prominent esports organizations (Astralis and FaZe Clan) prove that both the industry and organizations are hard at work on making esports sustainable.

Sadly, both ended up being case studies in poor decision making and lack of clear vision. The former slowly fell out of favor after both their CS and LoL teams underperformed, while the latter, plagued by various internal conflicts between the company’s top management and its founders, quickly lost value. However, before they fell on hard times, both showed promising performance and could showcase the rising maturity in the industry.

faze clan ipo - blast premier ecosystem
Image: FaZe Clan on X

BLAST Seeks to Challenge the Status Quo

BLAST is an esports media network and one of the largest esports tournament operators in the world. The organization was founded in 2016 and operated under the brand name RFRSH until the summer of 2019, which also owned a successful League of Legends team, Origen, and the most titled CS:GO team, four-time world champions, Astralis.

In 2019, the competitive wing was separated from the holding to avoid conflicts of interest and clearly delineate business areas. Since then, BLAST has focused exclusively on developing its media brand and hosting tournaments.

BLAST Premier

BLAST Premier is a series of tournaments considered among the largest and most prestigious on the current CS scene. All clubs worldwide aspire to participate in this competition. For many years, the world’s best performing teams received direct invitations to big tournaments like ESL New York.

Currently, even if a team demonstrates a high level of play over an extended period, it does not guarantee an invitation to BLAST Premier. Years ago, the operational system of top tournament operators underwent radical changes, and BLAST Premier was no exception.

BLAST operates as a closed partner league where revenues are shared among all partner teams with a key feature of the closed format. To regularly participate in their BLAST tournaments, a team must become a partner and acquire a slot for the series. Insider information indicates that the North American organization Cloud9 purchased a slot for Premier for $900,000 in December 2023. Such amounts are prohibitively high for second-tier organizations and amateur teams without external funding.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Current System

While operating a highly “exclusive” top- tier league instantly sounds like a winning model, there are caveats and challenges to consider.

Historical perspective

The landscape of esports tournaments has transformed dramatically over the years. Before 2020, there were various ways to get into a top tournament:

However, in 2020, the first franchised league in the CS scene, Flashpoint, emerged. It presented itself as a unique entertainment product that tackled key issues facing CS: a lack of stability, long-term investment, and a monopoly among tournament organizers.

Flashpoint quickly shut down, losing out in the market competition. Nevertheless, this league precisely marked the beginning of a monumental shift in the CS esports landscape.

BLAST soon followed with their own iteration of the system that is currently their operational model. It provides a stable platform and guaranteed income for select organizations.

blast spring finals in london (2024)
Image: Blast

Efficient media rights sales and Stable income

Each league participant’s income is individual and primarily depends on match viewership and tournament results. For instance, up to 30% of the annual revenue for the famous club NAVI comes from this source.

The same goes for top football clubs in traditional sports, where income from media rights sales is one of the key income sources and can account for up to 50% of their annual income.

BLAST excels at selling media rights, enhancing exposure and revenue for all tournament participants. For example, in 2023, BLAST was broadcast in over 150 territories and 25 languages, with broadcast partners including TV2 (Denmark), RTP (Portugal), Webedia (France), Pelajaat (Finland), StarTimes (Africa), and more.

Additionally, BLAST secured a deal with the sports streaming service DAZN, covering the UK, USA, and Japan, and partnered with Netflix for BLAST Premier Fall Finals in 2022.

Inaccessibility

Esports has always been about accessibility and the competitive spirit. However, it seems unfair when most participants are teams with money who bought slots, while other teams face rigorous qualifications for fewer spots. For example, the North American team Evil Geniuses consistently occupied the last places but still secured a slot due to financial backing despite many more deserving teams.

However, on August 3, 2023, Valve announced new requirements for big events:

Valve aims to return the professional ecosystem to an accessible state, where ability is the only limit to success, and business relationships don’t gate competition. Starting in 2025, BLAST will need to change its system according to the new format that the tournament operator has already unveiled for the world.

The New Model and Outlook

With BLAST’s announcement of a new Premier format at the Spring Finals in London a shift to six standalone tournaments split across two seasons will occur. The 2025 circuit will feature the events in Lisbon and London.

The impact of these changes on BLAST’s established economic model is yet to be seen. Teams will now qualify based on Valve’s rankings rather than invitations from tournament organizers. Meanwhile, the increase in the number of tournaments and participants suggests that most of BLAST’s current partner teams will still qualify through this ranking. This expansion in team numbers might be a strategic move to accommodate this shift.

We will only fully understand the consequences of these changes in 2025. The future is exciting, so stay tuned for more updates.


Bogdan Holovnov is the Esports Team Lead at DATA.BET, focusing on Counter-Strike. Engaged in esports since 2010, he has over five years of experience in esports and classic sports trading, and 3+ years as a content writer and commentator for professional esports tournaments. Bogdan is known for his analytical skills and ability to translate complex data into actionable insights and engaging articles.

ESB Staff
ESB Staff

Since: August 10, 2015

At EsportsBets.com we are a group of independent journalists with one big passion: Esports. We've been following the industry and have contributed to its growth since 2015.

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