RESEARCH | TV continues eSports experiments

    eSports Stadium Competition

    In an increasingly connected world, technological advances have allowed multiple new industries to thrive and eSports is another strong sector where broadcasters are claiming audiences. Lumina takes a look at the growing industry and how broadcasters are tapping into its loyal fanbase.

    From what was once a hobby, gaming has quickly become competitive and now an industry has grown up around eSports, an industry worth almost $900 million in 2016, but expected to hit $1.5 billion by the end of the decade.

    eSports provides broadcasters an ideal format to tap into young audiences who are faced with plenty of choice in the current era. Compared to the general public at 70% viewing live TV compared to all other platforms, the 16-24 year old range only consumes 40% live TV. In the UK alone, there are over 2 million young people who would consider watching eSports again (LINK). Yet, eSports has been taking in large numbers of viewers through online streaming services such as YouTube and Twitch, who were taken over by Amazon through a £500+ million deal in 2014.

    The figures for YouTube are impressive, with 50% of most Western populations active on the platform each month. Combined with the fact that half of the top ten most subscribed channels are gaming-related, it is an audience that has become loyal and difficult for broadcasters to tap into. Twitch was launched in 2011 as a gaming-specific streaming service, and continues to pull in over 10 million users a day.

    These two platforms differ considerably from traditional television on advertising placement, production methods and organisation. YouTube offers content creators the chance to include advertising mid-video, most of the revenues are generated during the advertising leading into the video. For the majority of the viewers, mostly male in the 16-25 age category, advertising inserted mid-programme is obtrusive. This is the challenge for broadcasters venturing into eSports programming.

    However, the challenge is not deterring many broadcasters, with the BBC, ITV, Sky, NBCUni, ESPN, Eurosport, BT Sport all investigating eSports as a source for original programming or additional revenue sources. ITV and Sky teamed up to invest in GINX esports TV, which has expanded to Canada, South Africa and most recently Austria in 2017 alone. Elsewhere, both the BBC and BT Sport picked up rights to 2017 tournaments organised by Gfinity. Turner got involved in organising events in August this year and setup a 11,500 capacity stadium, fitted out with 26 individual cameras for a full production – all broadcasting on their TBS channel.

    New sectors in media also allows for greater innovation, with Gametoon, founded by SPI International, developing a reliable method of engaging audiences. With over 80% of TV viewers potentially turning to a second screen (LINK), Gametoon has utilised this second screen to engage audiences on two screens. Their TV programming provides a leaderboard for viewers to compare their progress on mobile games – playable on the second screen – to other viewers. eSports has developed a community feel and Gametoon are tapping into this concept.

    With the stakes high to capture the younger audiences, many broadcasters are eagerly watching for developments in the eSports industry. It has become a hotbed for sponsorship in recent months, with the likes of Visa, Mercedes-Benz, and a host of technology companies backing events and prize pots. With the right format, broadcasters are likely to have a influx of young adults watching their channel. Plus, eSports looks set to conquer other age ranges too, with a recent ESL/Movistar study discovering that 25-35 years olds watching eSports had increase 7%, suggesting a rise as young adults transition into the range (LINK). With the right mix of integrated advertising and increased numbers of broadcasts, eSports’ future looks to be on on TV and streaming services.