Online streaming is the lifeblood of esports, with Amazon’s interactive Twitch platform and Google’s YouTube recording staggering viewing numbers in 2020. But traditional broadcasters can create a space of their own in the esports explosion.
The rapid rise of esports and its global audience – expected to near 500 million this year – is too important to the future of the sports industry for TV broadcasters to sit on the fence. Afterall, Gen Z is less interested in turning into most sports properties for a long time – the traditional domain of the broadcasters – than the wider population.
There are many positives for broadcasters to build on – not least, the progress they have made in offering compelling streaming services for traditional sports audience as well as their expertise in events coverage.
Recognising the value of esports, mainstream broadcasters such as ESPN and the BBC have already joined forces with esports properties including League of Legends.
How can big broadcasters get a firm foothold in the brave new world of esports? How do they earn the trust of those all-important digital natives who prefer streaming platforms? How can they leverage the value of their existing reach?
The traditional broadcast space holds significant potential value for stakeholders in the esports ecosystem – not least access to a large, diverse audience for influencers, athletes, teams, game publishers, competitions and brands. Collaboration between mainstream broadcasters and esports partners can unlock value both ways – access for esports stakeholders to traditional TV audiences and credibility and access to expertise for broadcasters in the digital native-dominated esports landscape.
Broadcasters should not just seek to mimic what platforms such as Twitch do best, but rather play to their strengths in human storytelling, production values, emotions and events to create content and experiences that resonate with existing TV audiences while earning the buy-in and interest of the esports community. This also means showing a clear and authentic intention to grow a long-term presence and community in esports.
TV and broadcaster streaming services lack the interactive, immersive and tactile experience that esports fans have grown used to. However, by providing tools, interactive apps, graphics and commentary that make it easier to understand and engage with what is happening on screen, broadcasters could begin to broaden the appeal of the esports genre.
The sports broadcasting industry is changing rapidly. More and more viewers consume sports content via online streaming platforms – whether its Amazon Prime, traditional broadcaster platforms or newcomers like DAZN.
This diverse and segmented landscape will offer opportunities for agile broadcasters who put their audiences first, collaborate with the experts and leverage their own strengths.
With its expertise in both traditional broadcasting and esports, Infront can help broadcasters create compelling content, gain trust and build the right partnerships in the esports ecosystem.