Sports are the world’s pastime, one of the most participated and spectated types of events in society. Due to its popularity sports have also developed one of the biggest markets as well. This market has allowed for businesses to be founded not only in merchandise, but in journalism and debate as well. The sports media industry is highly developed with educated and enthusiastic personalities able to inform and entertain the audience, the most prominent example being ESPN. For younger generations a new pastime is on the rise, and the sports industry is taking notice.
Competitive gaming, commonly known as “esports”, has been popular to a niche audience since the late 90’s, but due to technological advances they have gained a large mainstream audience since 2013. Streaming platforms such as Twitch have made esports more accessible due to the ease of broadcasting online, and with this growth in accessibility came a growth in popularity. In 2013 it was estimated that 71.5 million people watch esports worldwide, this popularity has allowed an industry to form of many leagues and teams with players in several different games paid in salaries and sponsorships. Twitch has been the major broadcaster of these events, but traditional sports media has seen the potential in the market and have pushed into the eSports seen. ESPN has broadcasted Dota 2’s The International and the Street Fighter finals of both the Evolution Championship Series, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, and Capcom Cup, Street Fighter’s championship. TBS has also created an esports league for television that began with Counterstrike and is now branching out to Street Fighter. Traditional sports teams have also moved into the esports industry with teams being invested in such as Team Liquid being invested in by numerous sports teams owners, NRG eSports being invested in by Shaq, and Echo Fox being owned founded by Rick Fox. Sports media in the day to day journalism has been somewhat lacking.
ESPN has opened its own subsection ESPN Esports, however the content does not rival the content produced for regular sports. A more impressive attempt has been made by Yahoo, in Yahoo esports, who have hired previously successful and known community figures to create content for them. My proposal is that we expand on this market to create an online website that will focus to create content on education and debate in the quality of ESPN’s talk shows and broadcasted it on the website using Twitch. This easily feasible, the production costs are not high as the needs are just a studio with workers and talent. This could be paid for through advertising with many of the tech and gaming brands trying to sell their products to gamers such as HyperX. The different game communities already have their popular figureheads, and all it need is to get them in a studio and argue with each other.on several aspects such as game balance, bracket predictions, etc.Several companies have shown the prospect of esports through their broadcast and investing and it would be perfect to corner this market early and become as important to esports as ESPN is to sports.
To create a successful network it is imperative that you know what content is good and what is bad which can be widely different for the form of coverage, live and analysis. Good live coverage must entertain, excite and intrigue the audience, and one of the best examples in recent Esports was the coverage of LI Joe in top 8 of Evolution 2016.
This coverage capitalized on the two major storylines converging, LI Joe being the only American in top 8 and his father who dropped everything and flew to support his son as soon as he heard. The commentators focused on these storylines because it gave the audience someone to root for and invest in even if you were not a fan of the game. Camerawork was pivotal in this as well, with an iconic moment of father and son in the same position when LI Joe is pushed into a corner and almost eliminated. The coverage was so well done that although the level of gameplay increased after LI Joe was eliminated, a lot of intrigue had died because of the end of the storylines.
On the other end of spectrum good analytical coverage, which often occurs before or after a match where analysts will give their predictions on who will win and why or how someone just won and why, must be informative, easy to understand and coherent. The best example of that right now would be the analyst desk on ELeague.
These segments often emulate shows like ESPN’s First Take or the NBA Halftime with Charles Barkley. Many different opinions are heard on players strength and weaknesses with just enough humor coming out from their own admitted biases. You see analyst Zhi, in the ridiculous but awesome Bruce Lee shirt, right off the bat admit he is biased on Xian, however then supplements his claims with Xian’s previous world championship, recent win, and use of obscure characters to validate his position. This kind of analysis is both informative and entertaining for the viewers.
Analysts can also inform the audience with prepared videos attempting to inform and improve viewers and players of the game. A recent example is again, ELeague with “Getting Technical”.
These segments are very important for Esports because there are a wide array of games that are vastly different than each other, and unlike sports these games are not taught to us at a young age so we are less familiar with them. Learning about the mechanics of the game is not only important for someone trying to enter the game, but also viewers so that have a more complete understanding of what they are watching. Just as if someone does not understand how downs work in Football they might not understand the decision making for each play, if someone does not understand V-reversal in Street Fighter V, as explained in the video, they might not understand the player’s actions.
Creating a network with quality content as shown above would be allow a company, such as Bleacher Report, to widen their audience, due to Esports continued expansion, and specifically an audience they might not have reached before. A company investing in this media platform could grow to be as large as ESPN, their largest competitor, if they corner the market early, just as they are able to do now. If Bleacher Report wants to overtake the sports media industry, their best first step would be to create this media network.