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.

The Next Level Joins Nielsen's eSports Advisory Board

THE NEXT LEVEL JOINS NIELSEN'S ESPORTS ADVISORY BOARD

The Next Level Joins Nielsen's eSports Advisory Board (Photo: Nielsen)

The Next Level Joins Nielsen's eSports Advisory Board (Photo: Nielsen)

I'm thrilled to announce that The Next Level has joined Nielsen's newly launched eSports advisory board as part of Nielsen Esports to provide insight on audience measurement and validation.

-Manny Anekal

The list of advisory board members:

  • ESL
  • ESPN
  • Facebook
  • FIFA
  • Google YouTube
  • Major League Gaming/Activision Blizzard
  • NBA 2K eLeague
  • Sony PlayStation
  • The Next Level
  • Turner
  • Twitch
  • Twitter
  • Unilever

Nielsen today announced the launch of Nielsen Esports, a new business vertical focused on competitive gaming that will leverage the company’s expertise and leadership in media consumption and valuation. Nielsen Esports will provide sponsorship valuation, fan insights, custom industry research and consulting services to rights holders, media platforms and brands around the world that are moving this fast-growing market forward.

Esports has experienced massive global growth over the past few years with major investment from blue chip sponsors, game publishers and media companies, as well as sports leagues and teams. The esports fan base is also rapidly expanding with nearly one in three fans beginning to follow esports just within the past year, according to new Nielsen Esports research.

“There’s a high demand for reliable, independent measurement of value in esports,” said Howard Appelbaum, President, Nielsen Entertainment. “We’re excited to enhance our client offerings and provide the industry with solutions that will help guide and optimize investment decisions in this exciting, growing space.”

Recognizing the need for consistent sponsorship valuation in esports, Nielsen developed Esport24, a syndicated sponsorship tracking service for esports tournaments. The service measures brand exposure in esports tournaments representing a variety of titles, event formats and geographic locations based on the same methodology that allows traditional sports rights holders and brands to quantify value and benchmark performance.

Nielsen Esports will also release global fan insights throughout the year, with a new research offering spanning the US, UK, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, and China in 2017.

As part of this new business vertical, Nielsen has created an esports advisory board of industry stakeholders who will provide insight to help shape the future of esports audience measurement and valuation. Members include representatives from ESL, ESPN, Facebook, FIFA, Major League Gaming/Activision Blizzard, NBA 2K eLeague, The Next Level, Sony PlayStation, Turner, Twitch, Twitter, Unilever, and Google YouTube.

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

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:

 

JUNE 20: TWITCH, BLIZZARD SIGN MASSIVE 2-YEAR 3RD PARTY EXCLUSIVE DEAL

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.

 

JUNE 21: NBC ENTERS ESPORTS WITH ROCKET LEAGUE ACROSS TV, DIGITAL AND OTT

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?

August.

 

JUNE 28: X-GAMES TO FEATURE ROCKET LEAGUE ON ESPN3

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

 

/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.

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: The Empire (Twitch) Strikes Back - Part 2

ESPORTS WARS: TWITCH STRIKES BACK - PART 2

eSports Wars: The Empire (Twitch) Strikes Back - Part 2 Photo (Lucasfilm)

TNL Take: In Part 1, I looked at the war that Twitch was facing between YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other players and startups.

Now let's look at how Twitch is fighting back.

Also for the record, "The Empire Strikes Back", is still the best in the entire Star Wars series. Don't @ me.

Twitch has long ruled the gaming live-streaming and eSports space. Although companies like Azubu, Hitbox and MLG (Disclosure: I used to work there) tried to take on Twitch, none of them got close to Twitch’s scale.

With further irony, Azubu acquired Hitbox in January... and then promptly ran out of money.

Amazon bought Twitch for ~$1B back in 2014 and looked like they were going to cement their stranglehold on live-streamed gaming content. However, starting with Activision-Blizzard’s bargain basement acquisition of MLG, things started to ramp up in 2016 with a full court press in 2017.

As I first mentioned in "The eSports Media Evolution" in The Next Level 061 last year, we are starting to see the bifurcation of eSports content across multiple platforms.

eSports Media Evolution (Photo: The Next Level)

For example, here’s what and where you’re going to need to go for Exclusive eSports content now:

  • ESL Counter-Strike Pro League (English) = YouTube
  • Heroes of the Dorm = Facebook
  • ESL TBD Tournaments = Yahoo eSports
  • Rocket League Championship Series = Twitch
  • ESL Weekly eSports Show = Twitter
  • ECS/FACEIT Counter-Strike League = YouTube

Then there are deals like Call of Duty (MLG.tv + Facebook) or ELEAGUE (Twitch + Twitter), which are shown on multiple platforms.

In addition, multiple startups are tackling the opportunity of turning passive viewing into engagement viewing.

So will Twitch sit back and let others write big checks, take their content and for startups to steal their audience?

Not a chance.

Let me be clear though: Twitch is still the undisputed leader when it comes to audience size and scale. It’s challenging to get viewers off of a platform they’ve used for potentially many years and move to another one without significant feature improvements.

When I’ve analyzed events that are shown on multiple platforms (Twitch + Facebook + YouTube Gaming), Twitch wins by a 10X factor sometimes.

Here’s just one example: While this weekend’s Call of Duty World League had about 40,000 viewers on MLG.tv on Saturday, it had ~400 viewers on Facebook – where MLG has 1.2M likes/followers.

That's a fraction of a fraction of an audience.

Here are multiple ways that Twitch is striking back.

 

VIDEO ON DEMAND (VOD)

Twitch Video On Demand (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch has primarily been a live-streaming service. But as I pointed out last year, YouTube makes a ton – the majority – of their money off VOD. Twitch finally addressed Video On Demand.

Counter To: YouTube

 

AMAZON GAME STUDIOS, STREAM+ AND IN GAME CURRENCY

Amazon Game Studio's "Breakaway" With Lumberyard Technology (Photo: Amazon)

The eSports live-viewing experience has to date been a passive experience. A “lean back” experience similar to TV.

If you look at MLG’s EVE (Enhanced Viewing Experience) with it’s fantastic live stat feature or group polls, it’s more of a “lean forward” experience. A few startups – like Genvid and Proletariat – are looking to take making eSports viewing more engaging.

And so is Twitch.

Along with the Twitch Prime announcement, Amazon made a slew of announcements including Twitch integrated games, Stream+ and an In Game Currency. Here's how they all fit together:

  • Amazon has gone on a Gaming hiring spree with industry veterans John Smedley (Ex-Sony Online Entertainment) to head their San Diego studio and Louis Castle (Ex-Command and Conquer) to run their Seattle based studio and work on another game, Crucible.
  • Stream+ provides viewers the ability to earn coins simply for watching a stream which leads to..
  • Using these coins for purchasing in-game items or "polls and wagering" aka Gambling - my guess is that these coins will be universal across Amazon Games
  • Lumberyard is Amazon's technology that enables integrated Twitch streaming for their upcoming games - that's a no brainer
  • The first game to include all of this is Breakaway which also includes: 1/ A broadcaster feature that notifies players when someone in their game is streaming, 2/ Customizable real-time stats and 3/ Ability for the broadcasters to create a community/social network for their viewers...which leads to the next product

Counter To : A whole lot of companies

 

TWITCH PULSE

Twitch's Social Platform Pulse (Photo: Twitch)

This month, Twitch launched a Twitter competitor called Pulse — an updating feed that collects photos, images, and text from Twitch users. 

FYI: Twitch is not bigger than Twitter but it's a good product.

I don't see Pulse as the biggest threat to Twitch but rather Discord, the extremely popular voice/text group chat startup. More on that later.

Counter To: Twitter (Sort Of), Discord, Facebook

 

TWITCH CHEERING

Twitch Launches Cheering Donation/Tip Feature (Photo: Twitch)

If you’re not one of the top Twitch streamers who can rely on Advertising or Sponsorships to monetize, you primarily rely on either Subscriptions or Donations/Tipping.

For a long time, Twitch’s tipping platform was handled by startups like Twitchalerts and Streamtip. With the launch of Twitch Cheering in June, they added another revenue opportunity for their platform – although I disagreed with their 29% revenue cut and thought a Branded Bits feature to sell to Sponsors would work well.

 

TWITCH CLIPS

Twitch Clips Highlights Feature (Photo: Twitch)

For years, there were several startups in the space that focused on eSports highlights directly on the Twitch platform: Plays.tv – which raised shockingly $15M from the 49’ers and the Nets Jeremy Lin – Dingit.tv, Oddshot, Forge and others.

Twitch Clips now provides the same features.

Counter To: Those guys above

 

TWITCH PRIME

Twitch Prime (Photo: Twitch)

I’m a huge fan of Amazon and Amazon Prime, their Free Shipping and access to Amazon's content via a monthly subscription.

Fun Fact: Amazon’s market cap is ~$400B and ~90% of US purchasing is still done offline. #Runway

Last October, Twitch launched Twitch Prime, which is the smartest move that Amazon had done to date.

Anyone who is a member of Amazon Prime automatically gets access to Twitch Prime. The features include:

  • Free Games
  • Exclusive In-Game Items
  • Game Discounts
  • 1 Free Twitch Streamer Subscription per Month
  • Ad Free Experience

Counter To: More accretive to Amazon/Twitch than a counter

 

TWITCH GAME AND ITEM SALES

Twitch Game and Item Sales (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch Game and Item Sales (Photo: Twitch)

Game publishers finally realized that Twitch was a phenomenal Marketing tool because they had 1) The right audience 2) Showed off the actual product 3) It’s Free and 4) Again, it’s Free.

Amazon is already one of the top game retailers in the world.

Peanut butter, please meet jelly.            

Last week, Amazon announced a Game and Item Sales revenue sharing product with their streamers. If a viewer buys either the game/in game items that a Twitch streamer was playing, the streamer gets a 5% cut.

Maybe that should be a higher revenue share but still a great move.

Counter To: GameStop, Steam, Future features from YouTube/Facebook/Twitter

 

TWITCH VOICE

Twitch Acquires Curse (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch acquired Curse last August and outside of their websites and media team – which recently did the Buffalo Wild Wings BDUBS Bowl on Twitch (Disclosure: Versus Sports EA Madden Athlete is playing in this event) – they also got Curse’s voice technology.

Discord is currently the fan favorite and has raised almost $30M. Now combine this feature with the next one.

Counter To: Discord, Teamspeak

 

TWITCH DESKTOP APP

Twitch's Desktop App (Photo: Twitch)

Take everything I've said above and see Twitch integrating into their recently announced desktop app. Voice, chat, in game integration, etc.

While this announcement didn't get the press as the previous features, if Twitch is able to build a one-stop-shop for everything within an app - that could be big.

Dear Twitch and Amazon, thank you for finally working together.

Grab the popcorn - this should be a fun battle to watch.