What can broadcast learn from esports (and vice-versa)?
Esports is one of the most rapid-growth mass-market media around, with global esports revenues hitting $1.1 billion in 2019, up 27 per cent since last year, according to a recent report.
Those figures are no short-term accident either. As the report points out: Activision Blizzard Inc’s Overwatch League named Coca-Cola Co as official global beverage sponsor a few days ago, while other sponsors include Toyota, T-Mobile US, HP and Intel.
This popularity alone is a key reason why IBC2019 had a specific focus on esports. Not only did key experts from the industry speak and exhibit at the show, but IBC staged an Esports Showcase powered by ESL, EVS and Lagardère.
The intriguing questions here are these: what can traditional broadcasters learn from esports and what can esports learn from them?
Key broadcast similarities
Although many might see esports as an entirely new arena, there are many similarities with broadcast, especially from the perspective of broadcasting an awards ceremony or similar live event, such as a football match. Indeed, many of the data-driven practices that have begun to gain traction in mainstream football media have been in widespread esports use for some time.
Real-time sharing of in-game footage via social networks, live mixing of replay or archive footage, and the recognition by sponsor brands of the value of events are all common denominators. In short, the esports ecosystem requires storytelling, event management, advertising and television production all rolled into one seamless data-powered experience.
A technology-centric approach
Because esports is a technology-first vertical, attributes such as flexibility, scalability and early adopter willingness are baked in. The requirement to engage with and respond to your audience is not a rarefied concept in esports, but a second-by-second requirement.
With the power of an almost end-to-end real time environment, from content creation in-game, through to consumption and engagement on social media, moving fast is the name of the game. Professional tournaments have evolved sport-style edit suites and real-time editing tools that allow immediate social sharing of in-game clips and content to maximise impact and viral potential.
Putting social media first
A key attribute of esports is the social element, which is reinforced at multiple levels. The technical, financial and physical barriers to entry are extremely low, and the culture of gaming itself is diverse and inclusive, which all give rise to very tight-knit communities within esports.
These groups can centre around a huge variety of topics, including hardware, specific games, or around particularly successful esports teams. But all of them have vocal adherents, creating powerful communities, often with a high proportion of young people who can be hard to reach via more traditional marketing channels.
New revenue drivers
This highly connected esports audience offers huge potential for established broadcasters and media companies too, with the opportunity to acquire media rights and screen organised competitions on a pay-per-view basis or sell advertising around broadcast tournaments.
The potential to drive incremental revenues through social streaming, or drive subscribers to Football-style premium packages that can search out key moments and share short clips is also likely to be significant.
Although platforms such as Twitch (bought by Amazon in August 2014 for $970 million) dominates esports streaming today, there are plenty of other contenders waiting in the wings, such as Microsoft’s revamped Mixer and YouTube Gaming. One thing is absolutely certain in esports - it won’t stay still for very long.
The esports story might not be new, but it will continue to develop at startling speed - catch up with the very latest at IBC2020 (11-15 September 2020) ! Discover more about the show (and why you should be going) here.