The world of Esports is not only a dynamic and exciting one, but has begun to attract considerable interest thanks to a more professionalised approach to content and broadcast deals. Mark Mayne reports on gaming’s rising star.

An expert panel came together to discuss Esports in a recent IBC webinar, The Professional Era of Esports: Trends and Outlook, covering familiar topics of interest such as how audiences are consuming content, how technology is opening up new potential revenue streams, and why the future of Esports is looking bright indeed.


Webinar: The professional era of esports - Top L-R: Steven English, Fabian Leimbach. Bottom L-R: Keran Boyd, Wouter Sleijffers

Esports and broadcast - commonalities and differences

Fabian Leimbach, Senior Director of Broadcast Engineering, ESL FACEIT Group was quick to point out that there are many commonalities between Esports and broadcast, as well as key differences.

“There’s many things we take from broadcast, especially in the case of an Esports broadcast, on a professional level. The entire ecosystem of Esports is getting more and more professional. I do believe that it actually ties in quite well with [the question of] sponsorship on linear TV and for sports productions, especially, they’re quite different to what we can actually do in Esports. I think the biggest difference really is how the event is designed and scaled. I mean, one of the good examples is in linear sports, I’m counting the size of production by the count of broadcast cameras. That totally doesn’t work in Esports, as that ignores the 100s of different setups for in-game cameras - there’s more things to consider.

“It’s definitely way easier to get people hooked on Esports. It’s all about the editorial content, how we promote it, and only make it more interactive. In Esports we would basically try to keep it fast paced and really keep down to the bare bones of what you’re talking about. That’s the focus.”

The revenue question

The conversation turned to revenue streams, with Wouter Sleijffers, CEO, Fnatic & Excel Esports dispelling some of the hype and confusion around ‘Esports’ as being simple gaming. “We are closer at times to people in sport than actual game developers and games publishers, and while they have their own teams running the Esports side it’s often not clear how much they interact with each other.

The fact is that gaming processes more revenue than Film and Music combined, but the point is that nobody else apart from the publisher or the game developer has hardly tapped into that many billions industry successfully.

“I think that’s where looking at how we look at digital IP and calculate how to value it, how to monetise it becomes increasingly important. This also becomes interesting when looking at new platforms that allow us to better engage with our fans - in addition to social media platforms - I think this will open up more revenue streams which have been exclusively for game publishers. I think part of that is going to be those that are smart enough to develop the capabilities to activate partners to do real stand-out leads and then engage them with digital platforms.”

“The Esports economy has such a high marketing value. There will always be someone who wants to pay money to access that audience, which is essentially the same for sports marketing. You’ve just got to go about it better than other people!”

English was keen to emphasise the revenue point too: “So it’s a really challenging environment, when you look at how hard you have to sweat the revenue streams to match the outgoings. It is very difficult and I can see why there are people who are not able to make a successful business but I don’t think that should reflect on the potential of the space.”

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Webinar: The professional era of esports - Trends and outlook

The power of the platform

Touching on the future of the fan experience, Sleijffers was unequivocal about the power of the platform: “What we have been working on is what engagement, loyalty, what in today’s Esports environment makes a fan, or a loyal fan, and what is actually the value of that - tis that responding to tweets, purchasing something, etc. Also, what is valuable, for our partners, etc.

“I think the difference comes in what is the difference in distribution platforms. So you know, at times people speak about ‘when they think sports going mainstream’ or linear, but there’s this thing called ‘Twitch’. Similarly, we’re not going to watch music - except maybe Glastonbury - on the BBC. So the difference is not about the principal percentages here, but it’s about the platform and the data behind it that makes the difference.”

Visualise for success

Sleijffers closing top tip covered a lot of ground: “I would say always challenge the status quo, think for yourself (although you definitely need to learn from what others have been doing!) That is true for all the entertainment verticals, as well as Esports, which are developing themselves more and more. The future is really bright!”

Meanwhile, Leimbach took a technological, and human stance: “Keep in mind that technology always starts with cooperation. That is something which I feel we should utilise more throughout the entire broadcast scene. Especially talking about the lack of people joining the broadcast industry. It’s easy to find some piece of hardware and describe and implement a workflow, then deploy it, but it needs to be efficient and make sense to the operators. So, don’t be afraid of the technology because you have control of it, and especially don’t be afraid of testing new technologies.”

English closed the conversation: “From the benefits of our experience - learn the space, learn the space you’re in. Esports isn’t the same as sport, it operates differently. Have a plan, understand what success looks like, because not everybody does understand what you actually want to get out of it.

“Define your objectives, build a plan and then invest in the right people. You need people who are experts in the space to deliver it. We’ve taken a lot of people from other places then brought them in - you can learn along the way but [you need to] have a proper plan and invest in the right talent…”

Watch the webinar The Professional Era of Esports: Trends and Outlook on demand now, and get the full range of insights from the expert panel. Alternatively, check out the full on-demand IBC webinar catalogue and/or register for any upcoming IBC 2023 webinar topics that appeal.

Read more IBC365’s 2023 webinar programme