The competitive gaming industry has been on an upward trajectory in recent years, with the pandemic minimally impacting audience viewing figures and revenues. Despite declining ticket sales for live events, sponsorship revenues and advertising in esports have remained stable over the last six months, with analysts predicting long-term growth.
In 2018, the industry's total viewership reached nearly 400 million people, according to FinancialBuzz, with viewers turning to cable and OTT platforms to watch professional gamers play their favorite games. Dedicated esports streamers and broadcasters are well-positioned to capitalize on and monetize this growing industry.
In 2018, the [esports] industry's total viewership reached nearly 400 million people.
Global esports revenues will surpass $1 billion in 2020 for the first time, according to market researcher Newzoo. China is the largest market with total revenues of $385.1 million expected in 2020, followed by North America at $252.8 million. Esports already captivates millions of fans worldwide every day, and Newzoo forecasts that the total global esports audience will grow to 495 million people in 2020.
Digital-first in production and delivery
With feeds ingested from PCs and gaming consoles, esports is a digital-first medium that prioritizes technological advancement and agility, pivoting with the demands of game creators, audiences, and players.
While the concept of esports has existed since the early 70s, the internet has fueled rapid expansion in the last decade.
With traditional sports games postponed or canceled during the lockdown, esports, Counter-Strike and League of Legends, helped satisfy audience demand for competitive sports. We saw multiple esports tournaments broadcast remote live productions on mainstream media channels, including Fox and ESPN, as broadcasters look for new ways to engage audiences with original content.
The reason esports filled the void left by more traditional sports so seamlessly lies in its built-in remote production capabilities. While the concept of esports has existed since the early 70s, the internet has fueled rapid expansion in the last decade. At the outset, multiple players competed on consoles in locations worldwide. These simple livestreams of one-on-one action were broadcast via esports streamers Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube and have since scaled to global online tournaments with centralized workflows.
Cloud-based and remote production technology allows esports producers to harness players’ data and content virtually.
Esports streaming has followed different perspectives over the years — all with technical challenges in their own right — from single and multiplayer perspectives to the centralized production of games. The connectivity inherent to esports means outside-broadcast trucks and on-site hardware requirements traditionally utilized in sports broadcasting are unnecessary. Instead, cloud-based and remote production technology allows esports producers to harness players’ data and content virtually.
Pushing the boundaries to innovate
Remote production and cloud-based software tools have been vital to managing multiple feeds with intricate data overlays, graphics, and commercials. Gaming platforms have adopted technologies to manage and distribute feeds alongside more traditional tools to ensure productions keep running.
The complexities lie in the multi-camera angles, which can include views from:
- A specific player
- The team within the game
- Bird’s-eye of the entire game
- Multiple players at various locations
The software-centric industry has forged new business models and ways of problem-solving. Esports productions are immune to legacy workflow issues because of the flexible technology choices and innovative mindset required to meet its fanbase’s demand. The ability to simplify scheduling and reduce costs to optimize production spend enables more content to be delivered more frequently to fans across multiple platforms.
Capturing complex live video productions
From the outset, esports requires solutions that unify the entire video supply chain, including:
- Unique content creation
- Flexible and agile video acquisition and management
- High-quality and timely delivery of content
- Monetization opportunities
We have seen data scores and personalization overlaid on traditional sports broadcasts, but the complexity of esports coverage means this requires reimagining. The unique content experiences are made possible with digital graphics integrated into the esports coverage, offering fans unique insights and interactions. The room for monetizing these opportunities are limitless for advertisers and sponsors.
Game providers partner with broadcasters to offer more control and creativity in live productions.
The esports industry has succeeded in targeting content experiences through a willingness to try new technologies and remote workflows. Fans expect to see multiple feeds simultaneously featuring livestreams of the game, players, sponsors, live scores, and the spectators; this means technical overlays, multi-camera perspectives, and a robust, agile solution to ingest and manage large data volumes. Esports has set the industry standard for innovation across the entire video workflow.
There will come a time when game providers partner with broadcasters to offer more control and creativity in live productions. Together, streamers and broadcasters can customize games to give the viewer a premium experience, ultimately driving monetization of original content.
Personalized distribution to end-users is one opportunity we see across various games and tournaments; however, this is not without technical challenges. Despite the industry’s digital nature, it faces legacy broadcast issues, such as bandwidth and latency.
Bandwidth will always be an issue that depends on content quality and the technology used, particularly when streaming to multiple devices and locations. Bigger esports tournaments will deliver high-definition programming with tailored equipment to support 4K and 8K productions. Perhaps the most significant challenge is making the viewer experience as near to real-time as possible, becoming instrumental as esports’ betting becomes more prevalent.
Esports is a social media-driven ecosystem with players and fans looking to share and watch highlighted content.
So, what’s the solution? Harnessing rich data around remote production is the key to success. The quantity of data produced by esports is significant, and, when leveraged correctly, it can create relevant insights for players and audiences in real-time. Graphics and streamlined workflows transform a standard production into a top-tier production.
The esports industry is adaptive and accessible, as we can see with streaming services that enable gamers to create content within the platform. Esports is a social media-driven ecosystem with players and fans looking to share and watch highlighted content. These clips include graphic overlays to maximize fan engagement through social channels that will fast become standard practice.
As the esports industry continues to leverage remote production workflows, the creativity and possibilities for innovation are vast. Maintaining competitiveness for media rights, sponsorship, and fan engagement are critical components of the industry and are setting the standard for the future of broadcasting live esports and traditional sports.