eSports Media Evolution: Disney's Opportunity


Disney (Photo: Time)

In Part 1 of the eSports Media Evolution, I analyzed Yahoo/Verizon's eSports entrance

Now in Part 2, let’s focus on one of the world's largest Entertainment companies:


Just as I did with Time Warner and E LEAGUE, lets look through this lens as potential ways that eSports could work across Disney’s various Brands and platforms.


/01 ESPN

ESPN eSports (Photo: ESPN)

When it comes to Disney and eSports we have to naturally start with ESPN.  When ESPN and eSports gets mentioned it's usually with two quotes:

ESPN President John Skipper said in 2014 after Amazon bought Twitch for $1B what he thought of eSports:

“It’s not a sport — it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.”

ESPN host Colin Cowherd said in 2015 that "he would retire if was forced to cover eSports":

Both of those sound anachronistic in less than two years but the truth is ESPN has changed their messaging - and so has Colin Cowherd.

Since 2014, ESPN has aired 300+ hours of eSports programming and dedicated a whole Sunday in July airing 18 hours across ESPN2 and ESPNU.

ESPN has also run three eSports programs this year and compared against E LEAGUE has performed fairly well; with EA Madden even beating E LEAGUE's Finals in the 18-49 Demo - usual qualifying statement on what analysis of early data means.

ESPN2 vs. E LEAGUE (Infographic: The Next Level)

That’s only on the TV side.

ESPN has also done a good job on the content side with ESPN eSports and I’d even put them ahead of Turner’s Bleacher Report.

However with Yahoo eSports recent deal with ESL, which will bring actual live content, exclusive tournaments and new integrated Brand opportunities to Verizon’s properties; ESPN eSports is behind…for now.


/02 VICE

Vice Gaming (Photo: Vice)

I’m a huge fan of Vice.

Sure I miss some of their edgier magazine content but I’m still amazed at how these guys are worth $5B after watching them party across from my Brooklyn apartment in 2002.

Vice has clearly grown up but there still isn’t one content company which nails youth programming like these guys.

That’s why I’ve said repeatedly that someone is going to create the Vice for eSports – and it may even be Vice themselves after hiring Giant Bomb Editor Austin Walker.

Vice launched their Gaming vertical over a year ago and I was shocked at how much eSports content they covered. They’ve also naturally made one of the better eSports documentaries:

When Vice's new Gaming vertical launches, I'd expect even more eSports content. 

Disney's relationship is their $400M investment in Vice.

Disney, just go ahead and buy Vice.


/03 BAMTech

MLBAM (Photo: MLB)

Amazon has Twitch.

Activision-Blizzard has MLG.

Turner has NBATV.

Microsoft has Beam.

Owning both distribution and content is the quest everyone is after.

Now Disney has the same with their recent $1B investment into BAMTech, a tech company spun off from MLB Advanced Media - also huge kudos to the platform they've built.

Disney will use this BAMtech to create a standalone, cable-free digital streaming service without current linear ESPN content.

Now what type of content grew up on and is perfectly suited for this new platform?


/04 Disney Kids

Disney XD (Photo: Disney)

I've spoken about my son's obsession with Minecraft and where Gaming and eSports will play a greater role in our education system.

There's a ripe opportunity to produce content at this early age. That may sound crazy but Disney actually did it already.


Disney XD teamed with Nintendo last year to produce Clash of Karts: Mario Kart 8, one-hour show that put four teams of kids coached by YouTube influencers in a Mario Kart tournament.

YouTube influencers and kids....

Previously, Disney XD aired a one-hour special based on the Nintendo World Championships 2015, based of the earliest eSports events - when it wasn't even called eSports - back in 1990.

Nintendo, absolutely bring Nintendo World Championships back bigger.



Disney's Upcoming Star Wars Theme Park (Photo: Disney)

There have already been many eSports events in both California and Orlando, with Activision's huge Call of Duty XP event happening this weekend. 

Disney launched a program called Early Magic which lets guests into the Parks earlier with breakfast and other goodies. 

Just replicate the same type of thing for eSports.



Disney Shanghai (Photo: Disney)

Out of all the potential upside, this maybe the most difficult.

I've had an unabashed love of China and eSports over the past year and believe there's a huge market there.

While there's Disney Shanghai I'm not sure if they have deeper Chinese investment.

And there's that thing of China's richest man saying "I'll see your $5B bet and raise you another $5B".



Disney Infinity (Photo: Disney)

It's a shame that Disney shut down their Gaming division earlier this year. I felt that the Disney Infinity hardware/software bundle that Activision's Skylanders pulled off was a good product.

There's an obvious eSports connection here if Disney still had their old studio. I won't go deeper into why they shuttered that division as Jess Conduit already did a great overview



Marvel and Lucasfilm (Photo: WDParkhoppers)

Disney's purchase of both Marvel and Lucasfilm for a combined $8B is going to go down as one of the smartest bets on content ever.

Spotify is valued at $8B - which would you rather have?

Disney has the license to two solid eSports titles: EA's Stars Wars Battlefront and Marvel's Contest of Champions Mobile game.

Again the notion of calling something "eSports" is still debatable but in this case it's pure revenue sourced from internal sources or licenses.



I can't stop focusing on the whole idea of IP, Brand and Content. Not only from a Media perspective but from just a personal/business perspective as well.

Everyone today is - or should be - a Media Brand.

While Disney has a lot of core assets where eSports can provide accretive value, it's missing one huge piece:


There was that ridiculous previous rumor of Disney spending $500M to license Riot's League of Legends. - which I think is crazy.

Anyone want to buy some Olympics TV content?

While that price tag is high, Ill go ahead and say this:

Disney is going to make a large eSports content deal in the next 6 months.

Tomorrow's Part 3 of eSports Media Evolution: How You'll Watch eSports Soon