MOVIE THEATERS AND ESPORTS: THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
TNL Take: A lot of sports Executives see the large, cheering crowds at eSports events at places like the Oracle Arena, Barclays Center and the hallowed Madison Square Garden and get excited about the future potential.
While seeing 20,000 people do the wave at MSG is pretty amazing, in 2017 there maybe 4 nights of eSports events - compared to close to 100 nights with just the New York Knicks and Rangers alone.
While it works, the current quantity of eSports events is just not there yet to continually fill stadiums. However there maybe a real-estate opportunity that already exists that could be a perfect fit: Movie Theaters.
Here's a look back at how movie theaters and eSports became connected and what the future holds.
2015: SUPER LEAGUE GAMING RAISES ~$6M TO BRING ESPORTS TO THEATERS
Super League Gaming made their entrance into eSports by raising ~$6M through essentially Series A/B rounds in 2015.
Working with Canada's 3 largest movie chains - Cinemark Theaters (which invested in their Series B) Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Theaters and iPic Theaters - SLG allows gamers to play together on the big screen.
After a 25 city test, Super League Gaming launched their Minecraft league in the Fall of 2015. Players bring their laptops, phones, iPads to the theater and play directly on their devices and then SLG's magic tech combines all the action where everyone can view it on the screen.
I love this idea and will dig in deeper why it works so well.
2015: COCA-COLA HOSTS LEAGUE OF LEGENDS FINALS VIEWING PARTIES ACROSS THE US
When Coca-Cola invests in any new area, they tend to focus on what associates them with a large global Brand. Which in eSports in 2015 - and even today - is League of Legends.
The theaters ranged from Atlanta, New York, Chicago to smaller locales like Leawood, Kansas and Lancaster, Ohio.
Let's also not forget Coca-Cola sells a ton of product in theaters.
2015: CANADA'S CINEPLEX INVESTS $15M INTO ESPORTS
Just a month after Amazon bought Twitch for $1B, Cineplex announced they were going to buy a majority stake in WorldGaming, a gaming tournament platform, for $10 million and invest another $5M to create an eSports league across their chain of theaters.
Cineplex has 162 theaters across the country with 1,652 screens, visited by 74 million people annually, which is about half of Canada's population.
2015: COCA-COLA HOSTS LEAGUE OF LEGENDS FINALS VIEWING PARTIES AT 7 CINEMARK THEATERS
After their first foray into bringing eSports to the big screen, Coca-Cola will be replicating that experience across 7 Cinemark Theater locations.
Two things that Coke expanded on from their 1st program: 1) Collectible cups and branded thundersticks, which are those "baseball bat" looking things that fans use to cheer on their team. 2) Allowed fans to vote for additional cities if they weren't near locations like Salt Lake City or Los Angeles.
2015: BY EXPERIENCE BRING'S ESL ONE'S FINALS TO THEATERS IN 25+ COUNTRIES
ESL, BY Experience and Fathom events decided to take Coke's theater initiatives and make it even bigger by showing ESL One Counter-Strike Finals which took place in Cologne, Germany in screens in over 25 additional countries.
Another interesting angle was having an eSports commentator exclusively for the cinema experience.
2016: COCA-COLA SHOWS OVERWATCH CONTENT IN THEATERS
While this wasn't associated with an eSports event, fans got to see cinematics, shorts and short films around the heroes in the game.
One issue was that the content wasn't exclusive to the theater experience which I'm sure Coke learned from.
2016: COCA-COLA DOUBLES-DOWN ON LEAGUE OF LEGENDS VIEWING PARTIES WITH A TWIST
We've gone through a few of Coca-Cola's theater sponsorships but last year they added a new feature.
The change in this partnership is that theaters won’t actually hold the 2016 League of Legends viewing event unless a minimum number of tickets are sold. This allows individual theaters to essentially decide if eSports or a regular viewing would make them more revenue.
Smart on both sides as Coke doesn't need to guarantee a minimum and the theaters can show eSports or whatever they were going to play anyways.
My estimate is that theaters needed to sell 200 tickets for it to be shown.
2017: SUPER LEAGUE GAMING LAUNCHES LEAGUE OF LEGENDS CITY REC
After initially starting with Minecraft, Super League Gaming launched a city based League of Legends league called City Rec. Essentially in the cities pictured above, local players can play in the featured match which is broadcasted on the screen.
For more insight, I spoke spoke Andy Babb, EVP of Super League Gaming.
TNL ESPORTS GUEST PODCAST 002: ANDY BABB, EVP SUPER LEAGUE GAMING
2017: HOLLYWOOD'S TCL THEATER GETS ESPORTS SECTION
The famous TCL Theater in Hollywood - formerly Mann's - are launching an eSports theater and experience within their complex.
The new area will be used for both MX4D Motion EFX and the "first immersive spectator theater hosting competitive eSports tournaments" - whatever that means.
ESL BRINGS ESPORTS TO 1,500 GLOBAL THEATERS
ESL is expanding their partnership with BY Experience to bring 5 live eSports events to 1,500+ theaters globally. The "eSports in Cinema" series is scheduled to launch in July which will include action from ESL One Cologne and 4 TBD events.
In addition, ESL will debut a new eSports documentary from those that worked on The Smartest Men in the Room, Superheroes and Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants.
WHY DOES THE COMBINATION OF MOVIE THEATERS AND ESPORTS WORK SO WELL?
/01 REAL ESTATE ROI
"Historically 70-75% of a theater's business is done Friday through Sunday, so they are relatively inefficient operations Monday through Thursday," says Eric Handler, senior equity analyst for MKM Partners.
In addition, using the Coke minimum ticket model, theaters can determine what content will be most lucrative.
/02 MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
Can't make it to NYC, LA, Vegas or DC to watch your favorite eSports event, now the content is increases by an order of magnitude. It also provides...
/03 COMMUNITY BASED EXPERIENCE
Instead of watching an eSports event by yourself at home, you can join other fans and watch together.
Just like traditional sports, I believe this makes it even more attractive to the eSports fan.
Look at the new revenue streams now available to theaters:
- Tournament Fees
- Sponsorships and Advertising revenue
- Food and Beverage
Just think of this scenario: "Enjoy your time Bobby, Mom and Dad are going to be at the bar right outside"