ESPORTS MEDIA EVOLUTION'S NEXT MOVE: TWITCH, NBC, ESPN, YAHOO
TNL Take: It's #TBT - that's Throwback Thursday's for those stuck to their Bloomberg monitors rather than Instagram Stories - and the kids use it to post something today based on something old.
So here's a #TBT on eSports media evolution and where it's potentially heading next.
Last August in The Next Level 059, I spoke about the future fragmentation of eSports viewing; whereas a few years ago you only went to Twitch, 2016 brought a slew of distribution partners.
On the last deal between Yahoo eSports and ESL, note why I felt it was important from what seems like a millennium ago and where this plays into our story later today:
Now let's come back to 2017. As mentioned earlier this year in The Next Level 128:
TNL Take: Go ahead and file this away till December but mark my words:
In 2017, eSports TV, broadcast rights and exclusivities will see big growth.
Here's what happened in just the first 2 months of 2017:
- YouTube Gaming’s Exclusive rights to ESL Pro League
- Facebook’s Exclusive deal for Blizzard's Heroes of the Dorm
- ESPN’s flagship channel to broadcast EA FIFA
- Univision Deportes and EA Madden Bowl
- NFL Network to broadcast EA Madden NFL
- H1Z1 documentary series and tournament on The CW during primetime
- EA FIFA on BT Sport
- Street Fighter coming to ELEAGUE
There have been even more deals - like YouTube essentially cornering Counter-Strike content - but let's highlight the last 3 to reflect the new reality:
JUNE 20: TWITCH, BLIZZARD SIGN MASSIVE 2-YEAR 3RD PARTY EXCLUSIVE DEAL
The deal is made up of two parts: content and in-game integration.
On the content side, Twitch gets access to Blizzard titles including Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm - pay attention to this one for a moment.
Twitch also gets access to 20+ events including:
- StarCraft II World Championship Series
- Hearthstone Championship Tour
- Hearthstone Global Games
- World of Warcraft Arena Championship
- Overwatch APEX League
- Overwatch Premier Series
- Heroes of the Storm Global Championship
I've highlighted the last 3 because of the following: Ad Sales, the necessary evil, tug-of-war that exists both internally at publishers and externally at agencies and brands. Let me paint a simple picture:
[Media Buyer/Brand]: How can we work with Heroes of the Dorm? Please talk to Facebook, they have the exclusive.
[Media Buyer/Brand]: OK, how about the Heroes of the Storm Championship? Please talk to Twitch, they have the exclusive.
[Media Buyer/Brand]: OK, what about the Overwatch League? Please talk to Major League Gaming and whoever else they will partner with.
[Media Buyer/Brand]: But, wait, what about the Overwatch Apex League? Please go back and talk to Twitch.
Sound complicated? Just try explaining eSports.
The second part of the deal, just like Twitch Prime, is genius. Twitch Prime members will receive access to a slew of in game items across Blizzard titles and an exclusive Overwatch Loot box. Over the next year, Twitch Prime members will receive almost a dozen more of these.
"Loot Boxes" are essentially the lottery system inside gaming which primes the monetization pump: Want a really cool shirt for your character, skin for your gun or a Madden/FIFA player that's ultra rare? Buy a box and hope you win. Good luck!
We will continue to see exclusive, multi-platform deals across the same title. Ultimately, this benefits the publisher the most - like always - and more content for viewers to engage with.
But while we are still so early stages in the monetization of eSports, does this make it easier for media buyers and brands, the ones ultimately funding the current "infrastructure"?
This is just move preview #1.
JUNE 21: NBC ENTERS ESPORTS WITH ROCKET LEAGUE ACROSS TV, DIGITAL AND OTT
NBC has finally entered the eSports space by partnering with Psyonix's Rocket League. NBC Sports will work with online tournament platform FACEIT for a 2v2 event with a $100,000 prize pool.
The tournament will be shown across both TV, Digital and OTT with the current list including:
- NBC Sports Regional Networks
- NBC Sports Network
- Telemundo Deportes
- NBCUniversal International Networks
In terms of TV dates, NBC Sports PR told me
"The Regional Finals will be played at NBC Sports Regional Networks studios on the weekends of August 5-6 and August 12-13, and will be live-streamed on the NBC Sports app and Telemundo En Vivo app, as well as other social media platforms. Participating NBC Sports Regional Networks will televise the final hour of coverage from each of the Regional Finals.
The Grand Finals will feature 16 total teams competing on August 26-27 for the inaugural title and the $100,000 prize pool, which will be televised live in the U.S. on NBCSN. The Grand Finals will also be broadcast on Syfy in the UK, Germany, Australia and multiple countries across Latin America, in addition to all previously listed streaming outlets.
Wow that's a lot.
Now for Movie Preview #2.
Twitch has the exclusive on the Rocket League Championship series of which Season 3 performed very will with 150,000 average concurrent viewers and 1.5M+ hours viewed. Further, Twitch did a phenomenal job on selling brand sponsors which included Mobil1, Old Spice and Brisk/7-11.
When does Rocket League Season 4 start?
JUNE 28: X-GAMES TO FEATURE ROCKET LEAGUE ON ESPN3
The business development team/person must have been on overdrive after Rocket League's Season 3 Championship as they've signed another deal, this time with the game featured at ESPN's X-Games.
Tournament platform FACEIT will again be involved in the $75,000 prize pool event which will be streaming on ESPN3 from July 14-16. eSports isn't new to X-Games as they've previously hosted titles including Call of Duty and Counter-Strike.
Movie Preview #3
/01 IS THE SAME CONTENT SUSTAINABLE?
Blizzard titles will probably be the first on the Mars OTT network. Rocket League may make there 4th distribution deal before the end of the year.
Is there enough audience to consume this content clutter?
Let's not even start on the issue of the bloodbath going on across media today, with just eSports related cuts: Yahoo eSports shuts down, GAMURS closing Wiki site due to poor ad revenue and ESL cutting staff yesterday.
/02 EASIER FOR AD SALES?
Let's ask a question:
Do the financial teams at Blizzard or Pysonix look at the media rights checks in front of them and say "But won't this make it potentially difficult for ad sales and brands to understand?"
I'll bet a million loot boxes that check was cashed before the question was even answered.
Why do I keep saying movie previews? Because, I've seen this movie before - many times.
My first article ever written was in October 2015 - "In Game Advertising: Failure or Future?"
I really hope it's the latter.