Can eSports bring millennials back to TV?

With the pro-gaming sector posed to be worth $1.1 billion by 2019, eSports is an opportunity to reach a ‘lost’ audience, says beActive’s founder.

Written by Nuno Bernardo (MIP Blog)

ESports, or competitive professional video gaming, has surged in popularity in the past few years, inspired by images of Korean arenas packed with thousands of fans cheering on teenagers playing video games in front of computer screens and creating the same atmosphere you would find at a traditional sporting event.

As eSports continue to grow, more and more personalities and companies are jumping in to get their piece of the pie as market researchers expect the industry to grow to $1.1 billion by 2019. That’s probably why the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Mark Cuban, Samsung, HTC, Monster Energy and many top European football teams now have vested interest in eSports.

Traditional media companies from TV networks (like AMC, Turner or Sky) to talent agencies (like WME) are entering the eSports arena to gain access to a large and very engaged audience that no longer watches TV or consumes other forms of traditional media. However, that doesn’t mean that millennials will suddenly start watching traditional linear TV. Instead, traditional media companies (their brands) that carry eSports events become relevant to these audiences—whatever the medium.

TV, film and digital production company beActive has been working with Portuguese public broadcaster RTP to produce live web streams of eSports events, a TV magazine format [scripted series] and, more recently, a fictional series set in the world of eSports. Although the magazine is broadcast on linear TV, the core audience watches it online (it premieres first on the RTP player ahead of the TV broadcast).

The Players is a scripted series created by BeActive and set in the world of eSports gamers

This way, the magazine can reach two different audiences: the core eSports fans watch it online, but recognize it as an RTP show, making the RTP brand relevant for them. At the same time, the TV broadcast increases eSports’ credibility and reaches a wider audience.

From niche audiences to a broader reach

One of the significant challenges for eSports is widening audiences. Although the numbers are already huge with sold-out arenas and millions watching the live streams of major competitions, eSports need to find new audiences behind the core players and video game fans. The issue is the competition itself happens on a computer and, for the average audience, it is difficult to figure out what’s happening on screen (eSports are not always as easy to understand as football or basketball matches).

But eSports are a new entertainment format that can’t be avoided. So event organizers, producers and broadcasters are still trying to find the right narrative to make the live coverage more entertaining. Producers need to create celebrities, well-known teams and establish engaged fan bases. This is work beActive has been doing, i.e, exploring new narrative and storytelling formats that serve core fan bases but also make the full experience more entertaining for a broader audience.

eSports means live event television aimed at a new audience that no longer watches TV. Whenever media companies choose to stream live eSports events on their OTT platforms or linear TV broadcasts, eSports offer an opportunity to reach a ‘lost’ audience. These games’ increasing production budgets and the experimentation on new narratives around eSports events will make games on TV (or on OTT and digital platforms) a new form of entertainment that can reach segmented but wider audiences.

For example, the coverage of this year’s ‘The International,’ one of the world’s biggest eSports events, with a prize pool of [$20.7 million], was comparable to top prime-time network TV entertainment shows like ‘The Voice’ or sporting events such as the Super Bowl. The live broadcast featured dozens of cameras, high-quality light and stage design, augmented reality motion graphics and VR to extend the experience.

After watching the broadcast of this event, it is safe to say that eSports video production is now pushing back the boundaries of live TV coverage.

This article is published here as part of an editorial partnership between CMF Trends and MIP Blog. Find out more about the burgeoning eSports sector at MIPTV/MIPCOM’s new sister event, ESports BAR, next February in Cannes.

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MIP Blog is the official blog of MIP Markets, the world’s entertainment content tradeshows, MIPTV, MIPCOM, MIPJunior, MIPFormats & MIPDoc. Its aim is to foster debate and exchange of TV and entertainment industry knowledge, as shared both at MIP Markets and beyond, all year round.
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