As most Dota 2 fans are already aware, fortunate viewers can win Heroic item drops while spectating a tournament (ticketed) game inside Dota TV.
Not too long ago, Valve implemented a series of changes to the way tournament drops work which had a somewhat adverse effect on ticket sales of Amateur Leagues.
Old System : All ticketed games had a chance to drop heroic items for spectators randomly when a memorable event (killing sprees, first blood etc.) occurs irrespective of the number of people watching a game.
Current System (as on 3rd October, 2014) : Only games with over 100 viewers will reward random viewers with heroic items when a memorable event occurs.
Under the old system, a sizeable lot of people would buy tickets for lesser known / amateur tournaments just to win free hats. While the viewership was not fully made up of a relevant audience that wanted to watch these tournaments, the high volume of ticket sales still allowed the tournament hosts to have a higher chance of recovering a part of their costs towards hosting charges, prize pools etc.
The chance of winning free items also served as an added incentive for fans of niche / amateur Dota to purchase a ticket since they were guaranteed a chance to recover their cost of purchasing the ticket via a heroic drop.
The inflated sales served as motivation for tournament organizers to keep hosting events for niche communities regardless of external sponsorship since they could be reasonably certain that their costs would be recovered.
As the system stands today, achieving 100 viewers for every match of an amateur (Indian?) Dota 2 tournament is nearly impossible. Even if you account for the fact that everybody that participates in a ticketed tournament receives a free ticket, the chances that they're going to tune in to watch two lower tier teams duking it out for a spot at the grand finals of a tournament with a relatively small prize pool is minimal without the incentive of item drops being thrown into the mix.
Sure the semis and finals may receive over a 100 in-game viewers however, would someone interested in item drops really buy an in-game ticket for just one or two games with the requisite number of viewers?
To put things in perspective, ~100 viewer count is a HUGE step down from the 800+ viewers that a tournament like Free2Play #2 received during the grand finals.
Lower statistics means a weaker post-event report which in turn makes your next pitch for a sponsored event slightly weaker as well.
My take : The change is hurting amateur e-sports in a big way. While Valve's intentions might have been to punish the few miscreants that abused the system to fake tournament drops, the reality is of the situation is that they've punished the entire amateur scene.
Online Dota 2 tournaments can no longer be run profitably without backing from an external sponsor and amateur teams, casters and tournament organizers stand little to no chance of getting noticed.
The effort of running a ticketed amateur tournament no longer justifies the reward.
Solutions? : From a tournament organizer's perspective, the ideal scenario would be for Valve to revert to the initial system while cracking down hard on the miscreants. This could be done if they had some way of tracking the number of items dropped versus the total number of viewers per match / tournament. A skewed ratio might indicate potential abuse which could be cause for further investigation.
Another possible solution would be to reduce the minimum viewership requisite for item drops from 100 viewers to 20 or less. Consequently, this would be accompanied by a reduction in the number of viewers that receive a prize for each memorable event or perhaps even a reduction in the number of memorable events that drop prizes.
By default, Valve takes 75% of the sales proceeds while 25% (minus taxes) is remitted to the tournament organizer. This break up is totally fair in my opinion considering that the tournament organizer does not have to pay for things such as servers, replay hosting, payment processing etc.
However, to ensure that the 25% covers costs such as tournament artwork designs, prize pool, admin incentives etc. a high volume of ticket sales is essential. Passionate volunteers that help with designs and admin work usually do not ask for a fee since they're equally driven to help the scene grow, however wouldn't it be great if a few tiny tweaks from Valve could create a self sustaining environment for niche, sponsor - barren Dota scenes to thrive?
Props to Dream13 for the cover image!