eSports Media Evolution: Yahoo and ESL


TNL Take: How you'll watch eSports is rapidly changing.

This is happening so quickly that today kicks off the first of three parts this week on the eSports Media Evolution.


eSports Media Evolution: Part 1 (Infographic: The Next Level)




This Friday ended with news of a two year partnership between ESL and Yahoo eSports - or to view it from a pure monetization perspective; ESL and Verizon/AOL/Yahoo/Xbox.

Yahoo Esports is starting this relationship with ESL to distribute their content across Yahoo's platform; although it will go definitely go much deeper than that.

The key tidbit was this part of the press release:


"Yahoo and ESL will collaborate on the development of new tournaments to be covered and distributed by Yahoo, with new exciting integrated sponsorship opportunities for advertisers"


Whether Yahoo was the right partner for ESL is a fair question.

I think more importantly this shows how badly ESL needed Yahoo - rarely has anyone said recently how important Yahoo could be to someone else.

Here's why.


/01 The Dumbbell Theory of Media

I'd like to go deeper on this at some point but basically it's what I refer to as The Dumbbell Theory Of Media. Put it simply, over the past few years we've seen the Media landscape evolve into two power centers:


Distribution and Content


The Kings of Media may have always been this way but new companies have tried to play in the middle; be both Distribution and Content.  

This doesn't really work - although Vice maybe an exception.


As companies no longer can survive in the middle, the power shifts to either side of Distribution or Content or what looks like a dumbbell.

The Dumbbell Theory Of Media (Graphic: The Next Level)

One of the biggest things missing for ESL was their own distribution. I've mentioned before the challenges of being mainly a league/event company.

While Twitch was ESL's primary distribution vehicle for a while you could start to see that relationship fraying this year.

Back in March, Twitch announced a partnership with Psyonix to develop a Rocket League Championship Series. This was something that ESL previously handled.

Now with the Yahoo deal and tournament partnerships, you can easily see Exclusive ESL content on Yahoo's platforms in the future.


/02 Ad Sales

This was ESL's second big challenge.

While the company is over a decade old and well established in Europe, it doesn't have the Brand recognition of Twitch or MLG here in the US.

Further they have a relatively small US based Sales team. 

Now couple that with potential marketplace confusion - "Do I buy from Twitch or ESL?" - and this hinders large Ad revenue generation.

This deal instantly eliminates all three issues.

If you don't think that's important, the words "advertiser" or "sponsorship" were used 5 times in the press release.

Now while the release and subsequent press coverage focused on Yahoo eSports moving into original video content and live tournament coverage - which is important - more importantly this provides a huge multi-platform sales opportunity.

OK, sorry for using "multi-platform sales opportunity" because everyone says it but in this case it's fairly vast:


  • Yahoo: Branded content opportunity directly within the eSports section with distribution across the platform


  • AOL: While AOL did shutter gaming site Joystiq, there's further content/distribution opportunity across Engadget, Huffington Post, and Techcrunch



  • Verizon: The biggest one of all. Outside of the obvious Mobile potential, the bigger selling point is a one, unified Sales team


My understanding is that the various Sales teams from the recent acquisitions aren't combined under one "Gaming/eSports" group but that's a fairly easy operational fix.


Ultimately all of the recent large Platform and Media companies entering eSports is good for one thing:


Brands, Agencies and Media Buyers.


Any familiarity with teams, processes and where checks have already been written eases the eSports education that's needed to drive the industry further.

Tomorrow we continue with eSports Media Evolution: Disney