eSports is on the brink of breaking out of its traditional niche space and firmly establishing itself in the mainstream. There have been several reports and forecasts in recent months that point to significant growth for the sector. Data published by Statistica estimates that the eSports market will be worth as much as US$1.5 billion by 2020, and it will be an officially recognized competition at the 2020 Asia Games.
A compelling alternative to traditional sports
Whereas traditional sports typically have a broad audience base, the key demographic for eSports at the moment is millennials. Not only do most millennials access content via non-traditional platforms such as streaming, but according to a Kliener Perkins
report (see slide #140)
in 2017, there is currently a marked preference for eSports over traditional sports content.
The sheer scope of this market is encouraging traditional broadcasters to look at making eSports content more accessible to their mainstream audiences and we've already seen the first signs of this. Last year in the UK, BBC Three partnered with Gfinity
to deliver coverage of Elite Series to viewers, while in the US, TBS has broadcast multiple ELEAGUE events in the last 12 months. Additionally, in Q3 2017, F1 launched its Formula 1® Esports Series
offering in collaboration with Codemasters to complement its traditional coverage of live races that players can access on all major gaming devices.
Creating social connections
Unlike traditional sports broadcasting, eSports has an inherently more social and interactive nature that is rooted in its gaming heritage. Games like World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Starcraft and Diablo create social connections and interactions by bringing millions of players from across the globe together. This is what traditional broadcasters will have to offer if they aim to stake a claim in the eSports arena.
Broadcasters need to look at ways to stay connected with fans and to enable high levels of interaction. This can be augmented with in-game purchasing to help monetise services. They are also looking at how to bring VR and 360 solutions into play as a means of better engaging with fans. BT Sports' first 360/VR UHD production during coverage of the UEFA Champions League final in June 2017 is a great example of what can be done to create higher levels of fan engagement.
For us at Grass Valley, a Belden Brand, it's important to look at how solutions like our live replay systems can best be applied to eSports. Gaming companies are already coming to us to discuss how our solutions can be shaped to meet their specific needs. With our live production heritage, we can deliver solutions for creative and interactive story telling in live streaming environments. Our traditional broadcast customers are talking to us about how our solutions can help them deliver content in a way that meets the needs and expectations of eSports fans and players.
As eSports becomes continually entrenched in the mainstream, it's an exiting time for vendors in our industry. We have an opportunity to shape solutions that meet the evolving needs of our broadcast customers as they seek to expand their reach beyond traditional distribution channels. At the same time, it opens incredible opportunities as consumers demand more social interaction built around content.