eSports Week In Review | The Most Active VC'S, The Reality of The NFL's Entrance, Disruptive Technologies: Ethereum


The Next Level Official Content Partner of XLIVE eSports Summit (Photo: XLIVE)

The Next Level Official Content Partner of XLIVE eSports Summit (Photo: XLIVE)

HBO's Silicon Valley (Photo: YouTube)

HBO's Silicon Valley (Photo: YouTube)

The List: The Most Active VC's In eSports (Photo: Bloomberg)

The List: The Most Active VC's In eSports (Photo: Bloomberg)

XLIVE eSports Summit: Connecting Brands With Fans Panel (Photo: ULT/ XLIVE)

XLIVE eSports Summit: Connecting Brands With Fans Panel (Photo: ULT/ XLIVE)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 057: EA Madden NFL Club Series Growth (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 057: EA Madden NFL Club Series Growth (Infographic: The Next Level)



Disney's eSports Opportunity: 1 Year Later


Disney's eSports Opportunity: 1 Year Later (Photo: Time)

Disney's eSports Opportunity: 1 Year Later (Photo: Time)

TNL Take: Yesterday alone, there was an eSports news flurry:

And we end the day with this tiny news.

August 8, 2017: Variety: ob Iger: Disney Sets ‘Extremely Important Strategic Shift’ With Movie, ESPN Streaming Launches

August 30, 2016: The Next Level: Sports Media Evolution: Disney's Opportunity

Almost 1 year ago I looked at the various opportunities that Disney had across their wide media and distribution network.

Here is last year's article unedited now updated with what Disney has done within eSports across 8 different areas:



ESPN eSports (Photo: 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)

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.



What's ESPN eSports done?

We know what happened with Yahoo eSports.

ESPN eSports has been the leader in reporting and especially breaking news. Definitely an uptick in amount of content as well.

Here's where it gets really interesting.

Last year, they had 3 eSports events on ESPN2. The total is now 16 to date across ESPN's flagship channel, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes and DisneyXD  - with a huge new Sunday programming slate.


TNL Infographic 054: eSports On ESPN Networks and DisneyXD (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 054: eSports On ESPN Networks and DisneyXD (Infographic: The Next Level)


/02 VICE

Vice Gaming (Photo: 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.



What's Vice done?

Just launch a dedicated Gaming/eSports website and content called Waypoint.

Waypoint: Vice's Gaming and eSports Site (Photo: Vice)

Waypoint: Vice's Gaming and eSports Site (Photo: Vice)

Oh that last line about "Disney just go ahead and buy Vice".

Vice Valued At $5.7B (Photo: Hollywood Reporter/Getty/Bobby Bank)

Vice Valued At $5.7B (Photo: Hollywood Reporter/Getty/Bobby Bank)

$SNAP Snapping (Photo: Google Finance)

$SNAP Snapping (Photo: Google Finance)

Dear Bob Iger, as a world leader in content, Vice is the world leader in millennial focused content. You're launching an OTT network, Vice is perfect for digital. 

Assuming current valuation, Vice for 1/3 of Snapchat? That's an easy decision.



/03 BAMTech

MLBAM (Photo: MLB)

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?



What's BAMTech done?

An Exclusive $300M deal with Riot Games for League of Legends.

Disney now also has majority ownership of BAMTech, which will be the core driver for the future OTT/Digital platform.



/04 Disney Kids

Disney XD (Photo: Disney)

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.



What's DisneyXD done?

Launch a Sunday Gaming/eSports programming slate starting with the 2017 EVO Finals featuring Street Fighter.

The Next Level is working on something special on DisneyXD and will dive deeper into that.

You can also hear ESL North American CEO, Craig Levine talk about the partnership on The Next Level eSports Guest Podcast




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

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.



What's Disney Parks done?

Considering holding eSports events at their 8,000 seat venue.

There's also a massive opportunity with EA's next Star Wars title.




Disney Shanghai (Photo: Disney)

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".



What's Disney done in China?

As I mentioned, this would be the hardest one. The Next Level will also have some special news on China tomorrow.



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



What's Disney Gaming done?

While not specific to Disney Gaming, Disney launched an accelerator program that includes axiomatic and Epic Games, publisher of Lawbreakers and one of the first to integrate with Discord.




Marvel and Lucasfilm (Photo: WDParkhoppers)

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.



What's Disney done with Lucasfilm and Marvel?

Take back the content from Netflix of which will definitely be included in the OTT/Digital service.  While nothing specific on the eSports side, the potential for both titles and content is endless.




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.



So what's Disney done?

They signed the $300M BAMTech deal 4 months after the article. Content continues to remain king. Now Disney adds their own distribution. Increase and investment in 7 out of 8 is pretty good.


Well done Disney and ESPN team. 

eSports Media Evolution's Next Move: Twitch, NBC, ESPN, Yahoo


2016 eSports Media Evolution. What's Next? (Photo: The Next Level)

2016 eSports Media Evolution. What's Next? (Photo: The Next Level)

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.

TNL Infographic 007: eSports Media Evolution (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 007: eSports Media Evolution (Infographic: The Next Level)

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:

Yahoo eSports and ESL (Photo: The Next Level 059)

Yahoo eSports and ESL (Photo: The Next Level 059)

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:

TNL Infographic 031: eSports Media Evolution 2017 (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 031: eSports Media Evolution 2017 (Infographic: The Next Level)

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:



Exclusive Overwatch Loot Item for Twitch Prime Members (Photo: Twitch)

Exclusive Overwatch Loot Item for Twitch Prime Members (Photo: Twitch)

Last week, Twitch and Blizzard announced a huge 2 year exclusive 3rd party streaming agreement and partnership.

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.



NBC To Broadcast Rocket League Across Multiple Platforms (Photo: Psyonix)

NBC To Broadcast Rocket League Across Multiple Platforms (Photo: Psyonix)

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.

Oh, there's also the 7-11/Brisk Rocket League Summer Series going on right now.

When does Rocket League Season 4 start?




Even More Rocket League (Photo: Psyonix)

Even More Rocket League (Photo: Psyonix)

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



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.



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.

In Game Advertising (Photo: Jamie Burke)

In Game Advertising (Photo: Jamie Burke)

My first article ever written was in October 2015 - "In Game Advertising: Failure or Future?"


I really hope it's the latter.

eSports Wars: Twitch vs. Everyone Else - Part 1


TNL Take: 9 months ago, I looked at the various companies, startups and platforms going after the eSports market in The Next Level 010: The War On Twitch.

How quickly things change.

When you're on top of the mountain, unfortunately the only place to go is down. Pre-Amazon acquisition, if you wanted to watch any eSports content, you pretty much went to Twitch.

Things started to change in 2016.

TNL Infographic 007: eSports Media Evolution 2016 (Infographic: The Next Level)

I steadfastly hold to my opinion that one of 2017's biggest eSports themes will be about broadcast and media rights.

Here's what's happened so far this year:

TNL Infographic 031: eSports Media Evolution 2017 (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 029: 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

This past week, we saw another Exclusive broadcast deal, between FACEIT which brings their Counter-Strike based ECS (eSports Championship Series) to YouTube.

Not only did the ECS launch last year on Twitch, this is the 2nd Counter-Strike Exclusive for YouTube Gaming after it's January deal with ESL's Pro League.

This is interesting for a few reasons but let's recap what I said last year about YouTube and eSports:

The Next Level 010: The War On Twitch (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level 010: The War On Twitch (Photo: The Next Level)

YouTube basically didn't need live eSports considering how much many it's makes off VOD eSports and Gaming content - cough....Pewdiepie....cough.

Here's why I believe YouTube is making this move now.


If you go back over the last year, Counter-Strike has been in the top 3 eSports games by Hours Viewed and #1 for half of the year.  If you're selling ads - you need eyeballs and engagement.



Now that YouTube has both ESL's Pro League and ECS - and considering that ELEAGUE Season 3 hasn't been confirmed yet and IEM/Dreamhack CS events are also on Twitter now - Google has almost a virtual lock on Counter-Strike Exclusive content.



I'm just going to quote directly what FACEIT's Chief Business Officer Michel Attisani told Forbes:

"ECS is co-owned by the teams participating and there is a revenue share in place. This deal will bring great stability to the scene, and will give us the opportunity to really focus on developing the product, while the YouTube and Google sales team will take care of commercializing the content. That’s not just in terms of pure advertising but also in terms of sponsorship and brand integration. When you talk about Google, it's the best sales force in the world when it comes to digital"



TV Channels On YouTube TV (Photo: YouTube)

YouTube's new Live TV subscription service for $35/month has a ton of great content from channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN, 2 and 3, THE CW, FS1, BTN - if the last few sound familiar, they've all broadcast eSports content over the past year.

However there's another potential for eSports and Gaming content: YouTube Red Originals.

YouTube Red Originals will be included in YouTube TV's content package which contains a lot of gaming content.

Offering exclusivity, distribution, content, studio production and monetization - makes YouTube and eSports a lot more compelling than potentially other platforms.

Twitch isn't going to sit back and let YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other emerging startups just take what they've built over the past few years.

How is Twitch going to strike back?

I'll cover that in Part 2.