Chinese streaming platform Huya inks first Western esports team partnership

Xueling Li, chairman of Huya Inc., center left, rings a ceremonial bell with Rongjie Dong, chief executive officer of Huya Inc., center right, during the company's initial public offering on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, May 11, 2018.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Huya has snagged its first esports and gaming partnership with a Western team.

The Chinese live streaming platform, which focuses primarily on gaming and esports content, has signed a deal with competitive esports organization Team Liquid, one of the world's most valuable esports teams according to Forbes.

This would give Huya another foot into the rapidly-growing North American esports market, which could account for more than a third of the over $1 billion in revenue that the global esports industry will generate this year, according to estimates from research firm Newzoo.

The one-year partnership will have Team Liquid players streaming on nineteen different player channels on Huya featuring popular games like Apex Legends and Riot Games' League of Legends.

Referred to by some as the "Twitch of China," Huya grew into one of the main game streaming platforms in the country before going public last May on the NYSE. The platform has focused on esports, streaming many tournaments while also owning the Chengdu Hunters team in Activision Blizzard's Overwatch League.

Huya CEO Rongjie Dong had previously emphasized the importance of entering the North American esports and streaming market, emphasizing the region's "high value" and "large pool" of users, particularly in the U.S. The partnership with Team Liquid is a step towards a bigger push into that regional esports space.

"As the biggest game streaming platform in China and the only Chinese game streaming service in the NYSE, we are keen to explore our participation in esports both domestically and internationally," said Huya vice president Ziyang Zhao. "A large majority of our users are huge esports fans, not only of domestic teams but also of international powerhouses."

In fact, the Asia-Pacific region will still account for 57 percent of what Newzoo terms "esports enthusiasts," that is to say more loyal esports fans as opposed to more occasional viewers, this year. The partnership with Huya would essentially give Team Liquid a bigger exposure to a market with a dedicated esports audience.

"Because the Chinese market uses different social media and streaming platforms than many other regions, there's long been a disconnect between Western organizations and the fans who follow their teams and athletes," said Mike Milanov, COO of Team Liquid. "Partnering with Huya removes the barrier between our teams and the Chinese fans. They will now be able to watch streams and have that first-hand connection with their favorite pros that until now was impossible."

Huya surpassed 100 million monthly active users at the end of 2018. Amazon-owned Twitch, by comparison, is estimated to have about 140 million monthly active users.

After going public last May, shares of Huya more than doubled in a month before falling and ending 2018 down 4 percent. The stock has rallied in 2019 and is currently up 68% year to date.

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