eSports has had a meteoric rise in terms of player participation; viewership and prize money involved in the game, which has resulted in the industry providing stiff competition to online casino and online poker industry.
Though traditional media has still not really caught the eSports bug, online video streaming and social media platforms have played a huge role in promoting and growing the eSports industry.
The Power Of Online Video Streaming Media
Online viewership of eSports tournaments has been the biggest reason for the growth of this industry. Whereas traditional platforms are available locally, online platforms can handle large-scale live audiences on a global scale. These platforms have the ability to aggregate audiences from all over the world and provide a scale which traditional platforms are unable to achieve. Some of the popular and upcoming video streaming platforms that had made an impact in the eSports industry are:
Twitch.tv: This video streaming platform is relatively very young in terms of its establishment but is the most popular and powerful eSports video streaming platform as of now. The platform was introduced in 2011 with a focus on the broadcast of eSports and online gambling. Within a couple of years the company recorded around 45 million unique viewers. By 2015 this number had jumped to 100 million viewers. The company was bought by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million. Twitch.tv’s value proposition is that anyone can setup a stream, be it individual players or game publishers or companies hosting tournaments.
The company earns money through advertisements that are displayed while streaming of these live gaming events. The scale of video streaming is massive and at its peak load the platform can broadcast 1.5 million streams. The company has formed strong partnerships with advertisers who pay money for their advertisements to be displayed before a global audience during a live stream.
Mlg.tv: Major League Gaming, which hosts eSports tournaments was launched in 2014 and has its own game streaming platform called Mlg.tv. This platform offers premium content only and makes surfing the channel easier. The company differentiates from Twitch.tv by streaming content of a player who either has a large fan following or belongs to a professional team. This way the company attracts consumers who are more dedicated and loyalists.
In the first quarter of inception, the platform saw a 1367% growth in viewership. Another reason for the platform’s growth is the exclusivity contracts that Mlg is signing with video game publishers to stream their games and tournaments like it did with Call of Duty makers Activision. Like Twitch.tv, Mlg.tv also earns money for itself and for the streamers through advertisements. By focusing on premium content, which limits the number of streams broadcasted, the company can also work with their partners to enhance the product by adding beneficial features and removing unwanted features.
Azubu.tv: This is the latest video streaming entrant on the block. This platform was launched in 2011 but will now re-launch an upgraded video streaming platform after it secured a $34 million investment from venture capitalists. The platform, like Mlg.tv will be broadcasting premium content and earning money through advertisements. The company is entering into partnership agreements with game publishers for exclusive rights to broadcast their games. To manage these partnerships, the company has hired ‘eSports Managers’ who are veterans in the eSports world. The question remains whether the company will be able to succeed against Twitch and Mlg as they have a significant portion of the market share already.
Leveraging Social Media Platforms To Promote eSports
Twitter & Facebook:
Social Media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are extremely important tools for eSports promotions. Many teams and individual players have joined these platforms and have attracted a huge number of followers. The larger the fan following in social media, the easier it becomes for companies to sell their merchandise and for eSports games to attract sponsorships. The additional money generated via these social media channels helps to provide better infrastructure for both the teams and the players.
Twitter has launched a gaming hub dedicated exclusively to gaming. Here people can talk about a new game, an eSports gamer, discuss the latest in eSports news and tournaments or follow their favourite eSports games. Eventually this hub can also hold question and answer sessions with people from the gaming community including players, developers and studios.
Snapchat & Instagram
Other popular platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram are also gaining popularity and acceptance in the eSports community. These platforms are adding huge value to the eSports brands and gaining a large number of eSports followers each month. Snapchat is a mobile application that is used to share photos, videos and texts where messages destruct within 10 second. The platform is also being tried out by gamers to see the response when they stream events.
Platforms like Periscope are also slowly being used to broadcast live streams or have videos conversations. Unlike Snapchat where messages are available for upto 10 seconds maximum, broadcasts in Periscope are available for 24 hours. People can join a broadcast and perform different actions like liking it (similar to Facebook), or commenting on it, or sharing it. Twitter recently purchased Periscope and has plans to expand and growth the platform in a huge way in the coming months.
Exclusive eSports Platforms
A number of new platforms dedicated exclusively to eSports have also been launched of late. Platforms like player.me which was developed by gamers allows community stakeholders such as players, groups and companies to discover, share and collaborate with their counterparts.
Another platform called Blab.im allows four people to video chat simultaneously while making the entire video chat available to an audience in real time.
Traditional Media Slowly Paying Attention To eSports
Traditional media outlets such as TV channels and sports reporting companies have been largely absent in their coverage of eSports. Traditional media is finding it hard to come to terms with the concept of eSports as a sport. In the past, the president of ESPN publicly stated that eSports is not a game but a tournament. Another ESPN anchor publicly stated that he would quit his job if he had to cover an eSports tournament.
Media Companies Now Getting Involved with eSports
However things are slowly changing as the eSports industry continues to grow in popularity. Traditional media outlets are forced to recognize the potential of the eSports industry and the viewership it has garnered across the globe. ESPN has now set up an eSports page on its website. The company has also decided to cover popular tournaments like the Heroes of Storm and The International tournaments.
Turner Broadcasting will form a league on Counter Strike: Global Offensive which will be aired on Friday nights for 20 weeks in 2016. In Oct 2015, the BBC broadcasted the quarterfinals of the League of Legends World Championship. Another media company, Modern Times Group, based out of Sweden has realized the potential of eSports and purchased a 74% ownership stake in ESL’s parent company, Turtle Entertainment GmbH. The company also purchased full ownership of DreamHack, the largest live gaming event on the planet.
Mutually Beneficial Partnership
Opinion is still divided on whether traditional media should cover eSports. Traditional loyalists oppose it and that is one of the reasons for the delay in getting traditional media to embrace the eSports industry. Even though eSports has risen tremendously without tradition media’s support, engagement from traditional media will bring the sport more worldwide acceptance and publicity.
Traditional media stands to benefit from its coverage of the eSports industry as it is bound to attract a younger viewership across a global scale while eSports stakeholders will benefit from the extra coverage of traditional media outlets resulting in more sponsorships, bigger tournaments, higher prize money and larger audiences.