eSports is finally emerging as a major new opportunity for broadcasters to build younger audiences.
So said Michiel Bakker, CEO of Ginx TV, who in a Platform Futures conference session ‘eSports: The new broadcast game?’ (Forum, 14 September) pointed out that eSports is beginning to overtake traditional sports both in terms of audiences and prize money.
The global eSports market is forecast to reach nearly $700 million in 2017, with prize money rising to $100 million a year. “Prize pools are on the increase – $24 million was the prize offered to Team Liquid who won $2 million each – even the team who came second in League of Legends won $4 million,” said Bakker.
“Prize pools for some tournaments are now on a par with some of the biggest sports such as golf.”
eSports is also becoming more professional with the help of trainers and nutritionists, and the involvement of traditional sports in eSports is now giving major brands the confidence to engage.
Mercedes-Benz has committed $1 million sponsorship to eSports, and the growth trajectory is big, said Bakker. “Who wouldn’t want an exclusively millennial audience of young, global tech-savvy super-connected people?”
There is a lot of evidence that established media are now sitting up and taking notice, said Bakker – who pointed out that ITV and Sky each took a 16.5 per cent stake in Ginx eSports TV in 2016.
“Facebook now has a global head of eSports, while the BBC has licenced eSports content for BBC3,” said Bakker, who added all TV channels should be interested in carrying some sort of eSports programming to attract the millennial audience which are their new viewers.
There are big opportunities for established players, but getting involved is not straightforward, warned Bakker. “You have to be credible and authentic or the eSports audience will sniff you out real fast. “Be authentic, listen to the community and respect them – they are extremely vocal – it’s their community and they are worried about how mainstream media are going to treat them.
“You also need to be super-careful with ad insertion, because eSports audiences won’t forgive you for inserting ads over a live competition.
“There is development, but eSports fans are a very tribal group – still very male-dominated.
“I predict that eSports will continue to become more professionalised and will occupy a greater space because millennial audiences will drive it into the mainstream.”