Esports Performing Well On Twitter

TNL Take: It's been over 18 months since we predicted Twitter entering the esports space. Since then Twitter made a large push with ESL, Dreamhack and Intel Extreme Masters in March of last year.

How did they perform?

Very well actually according to data released by Twitter. Of the Top 10 live streamed events in 2017, 3 of them were esports related and considering the Top 2 were related to the US and UK elections; they could have ranked higher. With how much live streamed content Twitter broadcast, 3 in the Top 10 is impressive.

2017 Top Twitter Live Video Events (Photo: Twitter)

2017 Top Twitter Live Video Events (Photo: Twitter)

Twitter also quietly signed a deal last September with Riot Games to become Twitter Australia’s partner with League of Legends.  

The partnership saw 2 live streams for League of Origin and the Oceanic Premier League Grand Finals, as well as 10 live broadcasts via Periscope Producer. 

Why does esports work well on Twitter?

As expected, esports skews younger which works well with Twitter's audience consumption of sports events. Twitter has done deals with everyone from the NFL, MLB to the PGA and NASCAR.

The esports audience - from teams, pros to the viewers - use Twitter extensively. One of the biggest audience drivers to Twitch comes from Twitter; it's why you see those promoting a Twitch stream is live primarily use Twitter as their current social platform of choice.

For myself, Twitter chat is also an "easier" experience than Twitch chat. Based on the algorithm, I see tweets first from those I follow/follow me and those in my social graph. As the chat is built around tweets, it makes it easier to follow the conversation than a firehose of emotes. 

Laura Froelich, Twitter's Global Head of Sports Partnerships, told SportTechie a key stat last month: The Halo world championship was livestreamed on Twitter, Facebook and Twitch; with a total audience of 13 million - of which 10.2 million came from Twitter. 

Some further stats would provide greater insight but there's a clearly appetite for esports content on Twitter's platform.

What does 2018 have in store for Twitter?

Considering how much of Twitter's audience overlaps with esports, coupled with last year's live video performance, expect more partnerships for this year. While the majority of Twitter's esports broadcasts have not been exclusive to the platform - you may see one in 2018.

YouTube vs. Twitch

YouTube vs. Twitch

The platform wars have begun again (Graphic: The Next Level Media)

The platform wars have begun again (Graphic: The Next Level Media)

By Feature Writer Jordan Fragen

YouTube is in a bit of a crisis.

Despite being the largest platform for gaming video content online, Google’s video platform has seen major changes and controversy over the past six months. Major creators have been deeply affected by advertisers choosing to spend their budgets elsewhere and many have lost 50% or more of their monthly revenue in the wake of what many have dubbed the “Adpocalypse.”

Amidst demonetization and dwindling ad revenues, YouTubers have branched out to diversify their income. Many have moved to Amazon’s Twitch while others have utilized crowd-funding services such as Patreon. YouTube is losing potential revenue despite being the central hub for gaming video content online.

This is a major branding problem for Google.

YouTube’s competitive niche has been narrowing and they are no longer the go-to solution for rising stars to build their name or advertisers to reach the coveted and elusive 18-34 demographic that advertisers seek.

But YouTube is fighting back.

In the last week, Google has announced 3 major changes in order to win creators back to their platform and all of which will deeply impact the eSports ecosystem.

 

/01 YouTube Gaming Announces Sponsorships as a Direct Competitor to Twitch’s Subscriptions

Youtube Sponsorship Details (Graphic: Twitter)

Youtube Sponsorship Details (Graphic: Twitter)

In an August study by Streamlabs, YouTube was outpacing Twitch’s user growth but lagging behind in monetization. This is a major problem for gamers who make a living off of their streams and gameplay. It has been far more efficient to build a presence on Twitch than YouTube primarily because of Twitch’s Subscription service. For $4.99 a month, fans can support their favorite creators and gain access to subscriber only perks such as private discord servers and unique emotes.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, all of these features appear to have been carbon copied by YouTube.

According to an official blog post, eligible YouTube Gaming creators can now receive sponsorships from their fans. Notably, this feature is specifically being rolled out for gaming channels first but may soon be a part of the main YouTube ecosystem.

The primary reason creators use YouTube is for Video On-Demand while Twitch specializes in Live Streaming. However, both of these platforms require a major time investment of which most professionals can’t spare. Many have resorted to uploading long segments from streams to their YouTube channels for this very reason.

The incentives to repurpose content from Twitch on YouTube goes deeper. While most people use Subscribers and Views as a metric to judge the success and profile of a YouTuber, the primary metric YouTube’s algorithm uses when selecting recommended content is neither of those things.

Behind the scenes, YouTube has looked to maximize watch time since 2012.

Gameplay videos are not only easy to watch in long sessions, but they are relatively easy to produce. Recycling content from Twitch only serves to maximize the utility of the content.  By encouraging streaming on YouTube and giving pros another way to monetize through subscriptions, YouTube is looking to move this content to a single location. This is clearly YouTube attempting migrate creators from the dominant platform back to their own.

 

/02 YouTube Analytics Now Provides creators with Subscriber Sources

Connecting Creators with their Audience (Graphic: Google Developers Blog)

Connecting Creators with their Audience (Graphic: Google Developers Blog)

Until now YouTubers have been unable to see data on where new subscribers originated. This is important to understand because it can help creators maximize the growth of their audience base if they know where to target or create content for aka what exactly advertisers do on the opposite side.

In particular, two of the subscriber origin categories will be particularly helpful for YouTubers:

/01 Subscriptions Feed will help creators understand how their content affects current subscribers, both positively and negatively. More specifically, it will tell content creators what videos are annoying their subs enough to cause them to unsubscribe.

/02 Subscriber Drops from closed or “inactive” accounts will now be available to creators. This is hugely important as many viewers have complained that they have been unsubscribed from channels without their knowledge and YouTube has been notorious for dismissing these problems. Now that this information is explicitly available, this will help creators advocate for themselves.

 

/03 YouTube's New Studio App

Powerful Tools Come to Mobile (Graphic: YouTube Creators Blog)

Powerful Tools Come to Mobile (Graphic: YouTube Creators Blog)

Most YouTubers have been unable to effectively manage their channels on mobile. YouTube is looking to change that with the addition of several features to their new Studio app. The two most significant of these features are the ability to schedule posts and customize thumbnails within the app.

Particularly this gives pros more flexibility to also become content creators. Often the most attractive players to eSports organizations are these pros who also build a personal audience as they often have the highest ROI. Until now, many pros simply couldn’t manage their channels regularly due to travel. While not solving this problem entirely, this does give pros more options to build their personal brand.

[Edit: 500M around the world own a phone and don’t have a toothbrush. What do you want to bet on?]

 

CONCLUSION

YouTube remains a key platform to eSports as it is often the place where people first learn about the competitive and professional ecosystem. However once someone new became a fan, they often migrated to Twitch to watch live. YouTube is now seeking to cater to both the live and VOD audience and only time will tell if they can chip away at Twitch’s massive lead on the streaming side.

Personally, I’m skeptical.

By focusing on VOD, YouTube had a unique niche. Seemingly, they have dropped this focus in favor of emulating other’s success. I worry that this strategy might lead to YouTube to becoming the jack of all trades for video, while being the master of none.

Additionally, bringing livestreams and episodic clips to one platform may not be in a creator’s best interest. By releasing shorter, more regularly occurring content, YouTube has conditioned its users to tune into everyday at a specific pace. Creators risk alienating subscribers who already saw this content by re-uploading the livestream in the same location as the VOD. This will affect the algorithm as more subscribers will skip episodes, YouTube will register this as the subscriber becoming less interested in that content and it will lead to fewer recommendations for that creator.  

eSports continues to be one of the most promising spaces for advertisers to reach the critical 18-34 audience. In addition to acquiring exclusive rights to air some tournaments, YouTube is hoping to catering to the needs of pros.

Since many of the stars that built Youtube’s popularly are leaving and taking their desirable audiences elsewhere, YouTube is no longer as culturally relevant as it once was. It may have a larger audience, but tastemakers and trendsetters are no longer prioritizing YouTube. As eSports grows, so too will the star power of its elite players - in addition to the platforms they choose to use. Many like Facebook and Twitter, along with a slew of startups, have already begun reaching out.

Without making more overtures to eSports pros, YouTube risks losing its place as the preeminent platform for internet celebrities, their content, and their cultural relevance.

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports

EA MADDEN, NFL, AMAZON, MOBILE AND ESPORTS

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

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

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

This is one of three big changes to EA's Club Series with NFL pro teams. While last year started with 8 - Bills, Jaguars, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers and the 49ers - this year, it expands to all 32 NFL teams.

 

/02 PRIZE POOL

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

The second big change is the amount of money on the line. Last year's 8 total events were for $10K each along with the Club Finals with a $50K prize pool, bringing 2017's total to ~$130K.

Madden 18's Club Championship total prize pool of $400K+ more than triples last year's total...with a catch.

 

/03 STRUCTURE

In addition to the Club Series Finals being held at Pro Bowl Experience in Orlando, the winner will also receive 2 tickets to Super Bowl LII - another sign of the NFL's involvement.

 

 

/04 TWITCH PRIME

Now is where things start to get really fun.

This past Saturday morning  I found something very interesting posted and tweeted the following:

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

The reception from the community was overwhelmingly positive and a YouTube video made just around my Tweet has 20,000+ views currently:

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

I've talked plenty about how Twitch Prime is genius and the ability to lure in publishers is so critical and this is another example.

 

/05 AMAZON'S NFL PROGRAMMING

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

In April, Twitch owner Amazon signed a partnership with the NFL for $50M to stream 10 Thursday night games to Amazon Prime members.

Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime.

If 500K people sign up for Amazon Prime to get access to the NFL content, Amazon breaks even on the media rights. Even if they don't, it's more marketing and programming for their content chest.

 

/06 MADDEN MOBILE

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

One of the least publicized success stories in the mobile gaming space is Madden Mobile. During the NFL season the game is consistently in the Top 10 grossing on the App Store.

Go ahead and check where it is right now.

Amazon has invested greatly with Vainglory and mobile eSports and there's further opportunity here as well.

 

/07 TICKETING

I covered this last week with Amazon's potential disruption of another industry - ticketing - and the huge eSports opportunity that it holds.

Now add NFL ticket purchases and all the additional value provided with the points above.

 

/08 NFL INVOLVEMENT

Don't discount the NFL finally getting into eSports and putting their name, marketing and executives behind this initiative.

The NFL is the 800-pound gorilla on top of the media and sports food chain.

 

THE REAL DEAL

 

It's great to see the largest and most popular US sports league jump into the eSports pool.

Now add in cross promotion between EA Madden, watching Thursday NFL games on Amazon, Twitch Prime integration, Mobile, the NFL's marketing machine and the vision starts to emerge.

 

But here's the reality.

 

/01 It’s nowhere close to what Activision-Blizzard is building with their Overwatch League, Riot Games’ North American League of Legends League or the upcoming NBA 2K ELEAGUE with more than half of the pro teams included.

For both the NFL and EA to emulate OWL, LOL, and NBA2KELEAGUE in such a short amount of time would have been a herculean task.  The information for the Madden 18 competitive season was released less than a week before the game launches.

 

/02 The total EA Madden NFL 18 prize pool increased from $1.000M to just $1.153M. EA should clear $750M+ in Ultimate Team earnings from primarily FIFA and Madden this year with continued growth.

Even the Club Series total while seeming high at $400K is the total for 32 teams - when looked at on an individual basis it's also a slight increase over last years $10K prize pool each.

A slight prize pool increase and fewer Athletes being flown out to events - while Ultimate Team dollars continue to flow in.

 

/03 No details were revealed around either Digital or TV distribution but I'd be shocked if the Madden 18 Championships were not either on a Disney platform or The NFL Network.

 

04/ Brands - where are they?

While last years Club Series did have brands present like Gillette and the Patriots, these deals were either added value or for very little revenue.

 

/05 This is the biggest difference between the 3 major upcoming eSports leagues and what European soccer teams are doing with their investment.

While the winners get a much larger prize pool, entry to the Madden 18 Championships and a slew of benefits, what happens with “NFL Club Winner” after this?

This program isn’t like being officially sponsored by a Paris St. Germain, which has many FIFA Athletes represent the club and provide the “3 M’s Of Why Pro Sports Teams Invest In eSports”™ - Marketing, Merchandising and Monetization.

 

Whichever NFL pro team does decide to become the innovator and begin emulating their European counterparts will start seeing the ROI with real investment in the eSports space much  more quickly than the next teams that will quickly follow suit.

Amazon + Ticketing + eSports = Opportunity

AMAZON + TICKETING + ESPORTS = OPPORTUNITY

Amazon + Ticketing + eSports = The Opportunity (Photo: Benjamin Faust)

Amazon + Ticketing + eSports = The Opportunity (Photo: Benjamin Faust)

Amazon + Ticketing + eSports = The Opportunity (Photo: Twitter)

Amazon + Ticketing + eSports = The Opportunity (Photo: Twitter)

There's definitely a huge opportunity in taking on Ticketmaster alone, which generated $1.6B in revenue in 2016 per BTIG's estimates.

But let's look at how Amazon can turn this into an eSports opportunity.

 

WHO WOULD THEY BUY?

The Ticket Fairy's Investor List (Photo: Crunchbase)

The Ticket Fairy's Investor List (Photo: Crunchbase)

There are plenty of ticketing startups that Amazon could look at. After I sent that tweet, a former MLG colleague of mine alerted me to the The Ticket Fairy.

Just Twitch COO Kevin Lin, Justin Kan and Emmett shear - the co-founders of Twitch - and Y Combinator, which invested in Twitch and gave the incubator a massive return.

This isn't a guarantee that Amazon/Twitch will choose The Ticket Fairy but the investor list overlap is pretty amazing.

 

WHAT COULD THEY DO?

TwitchCon 2016 (Photo: Twitch)

TwitchCon 2016 (Photo: Twitch)

TWITCHCON

TwitchCon is the easy first option, the massive event that Twitch has held for the past few years celebrating their influencers, fans and platform.

 

TWITCH PRIME

Amazon's Twitch Prime Move Is Genius (Photo: Twitch)

Amazon's Twitch Prime Move Is Genius (Photo: Twitch)

Now let's go deeper and what I consider one of the most brilliant moves that Amazon has done with Twitch:  Twitch Prime

Remember, Twitch Prime is all about driving Amazon Prime memberships overall, as the latter automatically gives you access to the former and increased value to the Prime platform - I don't even want to know how much I've spent using Amazon Prime Now with 2-hour delivery in NYC.

 

EVENTS

In March, Twitch announced that streamers would get a cut of any game sold through their channel. 

Now imagine this scenario.

Any developer based event that Twitch drives the ticketing platform can be further deeply integrated with both Twitch Prime and Game Sales. 

It can go even deeper than that.

What if you got an Exclusive item via Twitch for attending that event that Amazon just sold you a ticket for?

Overwatch Loot Box Via Twitch Prime (Photo: Twitch)

Overwatch Loot Box Via Twitch Prime (Photo: Twitch)

 

EVENT PLATFORM

Matcherino's Events (Photo: Matcherino)

Matcherino's Events (Photo: Matcherino)

Last month, I analyzed Matcherino's $1.5M round and how that platform helps event organizers crowdfund prize pools and help distribute the winnings.

How does Matcherino work?

Matcherino With Twitch Login (Photo: Matcherino)

Matcherino With Twitch Login (Photo: Matcherino)

Oh you just use your Twitch login and connect your PayPal account.

See it now.

 

THE ESPORTS TICKETING OPPORTUNITY

Amazon's potential move into ticketing is them disrupting another industry - when will the first Amazon health care facility open?

What's the accretive value to Amazon overall to get into ticketing? Ill let the Wall Street analysts do the math on that one.

 

But there's a huge play between Amazon, Twitch, eSports and ticketing.