How esports company Blast is claiming it’s officially profitable

For many esports companies, profitability has long been a concern for the future, not the present. But this is no longer the case for the league operator Blast, which officially turned a profit in 2023.

In a conversation with Digiday at last weekend’s Six Invitational, an esports event in São Paulo’s Ginásio do Ibirapuera stadium, Blast chief business officer Leo Matlock disclosed that the company made a profit during the 2023 financial year, although he declined to share the specific number. Representatives of the privately held esports company also declined to specify exactly when Blast’s annual report for 2023 would be published, but said that its release date is currently slated for late April or early May.

“Our HQ is in Denmark, so we’re very good at putting our public accounts out as part of our registrations — anyone is free to check these,” Matlock said.  “The next accounts we publish, we’re delighted to say will be a profitable set of accounts.”

Blast profitability news represents a significant turnaround for the Danish esports firm, which reported a deficit of over €11.5 million for the 2022 financial year before receiving a €12.7 million cash infusion from investors such as the Export and Investment Fund of Denmark in September 2023.

Blast is an esports league operator whose primary business is monetizing competitive gaming broadcasts via advertising, sponsorships and media rights deals, as well as newer revenue streams like the livestreaming and esports content platform Blast.TV. At the moment, Blast operates esports leagues in games such as “Rainbow Six Siege,” “Fortnite,” “Rocket League” and “Counter-Strike” — a multi-genre and multi-publisher portfolio that Matlock credits for the company’s success in 2023.

Over the past year, Blast has undergone an expansion strategy that has included both deepening its ties with games publishers like Ubisoft and signing new partnerships to operate leagues and tournaments for esports such as Rocket League. This type of expansion was explicitly one of the reasons for Blast’s most recent funding round in late 2023.

“We’re very keen to have a diverse form of revenue streams which is not overly reliant on any one, because markets fluctuate and go up and down all the time,” Matlock said. “So we absolutely need to be doing a lot of good work across multiple games to be a profitable organization with the aspirations and ambitions we have.” 

Blast’s expansion is an encouraging sign for the broader competitive gaming industry, particularly given the ongoing “esports winter.” Although some esports publishers such as Riot Games still operate their own esports leagues, the prevailing trend in the industry over the past year has been for publishers and game developers to partner with third-party companies like Blast to operate their leagues. 

The idea behind the publisher/league operator model is that it streamlines esports, allowing the publishers to benefit from the marketing value of esports while empowering the third-party operators to focus on turning esports into a viable product. For this model to truly work, however, the third-party companies need to turn a profit. Blast’s ability to do so in 2023 could help prove out the approach.

“They’re taking a stab at building something here as a business in itself,” said John Lewis, the senior director of esports for Team Liquid, which participates in Blast and Ubisoft’s “Rainbow Six” ecosystem. “It’s something we push for in our discussion with publishers, who maybe in their first foray into esports only see the marketing. It’s like, yes, but you can actually build something here, too — and outlining that for them is part of our job today.”

At the moment, the two largest companies acting as third-party league operators are Blast and its rival ESL/FACEIT Group, which has partnered with Activision Blizzard to run esports events for “Call of Duty” and “Overwatch,” although some smaller players such as PGL and Carry also operate in certain markets. Blast’s success in attaining profitability validates the business of esports at large — but it also puts the onus on these rivals to prove that they can do it, too.

“We’re in this co-production with Blast — and I think the word co-production is important,” said Ubisoft esports director for “Rainbow Six Siege” Maxime Vial. “Because we’re doing this together. Blast is in it just as much as Ubisoft is.”

https://digiday.com/?p=535930

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