This week the ‘eSports IQ by Alex Fletcher‘ features the following content: The eSports content value chain; Who’s looking after the eSports product?
Who’s looking after the eSports product?
The recent TV debut of Turner Sports’ new league for the Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CSGO) game, “ELeague,” was followed by threats of legal action involving two of its teams. One team, SK Gaming, is claiming breach of contract while the other, Luminosity Gaming, is claiming illegal poaching. Team captain of Luminosity, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, went public in support of the players’ decision to not honor signed contracts with SK. Obviously, this is a sticky subject. And while ELeague officials should eventually weigh in with a judgment, there are several key issues at hand. Namely, as investment by major media companies like Turner brings involvement of blue chip, non-endemic advertising partners, to accompany high quality TV and digital broadcasts, eSports leagues like ELeague are no longer just games; they are products, which need to be managed accordingly.
Outside of Riot Games’ League of Legends, where professional play is forbidden outside its League Championship Series, the competitive video game landscape offers few notions of exclusivity. And this isn’t a bad thing. Electronic sports need the diversity offered by different leagues and tournament systems, at this stage in its evolution. However, without an overarching organization and collaboration between various competitive scenes, a sense of chaos becomes the norm. In the case of SK Gaming and Luminosity, ELeague’s commissioner, Min-Sik Ko, is faced with passing ruling on claims of tortious interference which preceded the onset of his own league. Plus, the signed contract doesn’t even go into effect until after ELeague is completed and the teams involved are free to pursue play elsewhere. In this scenario, competitive play in ELeague won’t be directly affected by the outcome, but its decision will undoubtedly affect the teams’ participation in a subsequent CSGO league; a reality that illuminates the need for some form of collaborative governance.
While announcement of the World eSports Association (WESA) was met with skepticism, and followed by departure of one of the initial eight member teams. A collective approach to managing the competitive integrity of various eSports leagues is paramount. Currently, teams are incentivized to act entirely selfishly in the face of zero consistent mechanisms for oversight and structure, across a maze of competitive scenes. Additionally, should Turner continue commitment to eSports over the long haul, corporate partners will learn more about the world of competitive video games, and grow keen on ensuring better protections against potential damage to the ELeague product, originating elsewhere.
- Understanding the “FIFA for eSports” – entivagroup.net
- SK Gaming, Luminosity locked in contract disputes – espn.com
- FalleN’s official response to recent SK Gaming controversy – dailydot.com
The eSports content value chain
Following release of the first week of viewership numbers for Turner Sports’ ELeague, it’s worth clarifying the nature of premium eSports programming, and the critical role it will play in growing the eSports ecosystem. While expectation that gaming content will pull younger audiences back to linear TV in significant numbers, ignores the fundamental realities of pay-TV today, i.e. it’s just too pricey. Turner’s ELeague characterizes the convergence of entertainment and competitive video games. The product is a mainstream-friendly product, capable of resonating with non-gaming audiences.
The vast majority of eSports content today is geared to attract those mostly familiar with the video games being played. This approach is perfectly suited to the dynamics of freely accessible content. However, to scale on pay-to-watch platforms, like TV, content must appeal more broadly. Turner’s approach to ELeague does just that; specifically by focusing on narratives and storytelling, borrowed from their wealth of experience in traditional sports. The structure around premium programming creates a positive feedback loop for a number of actors across the eSports landscape, see below:
Includes leagues, tournaments, teams, and even players. This is the essential set of assets necessary for competitive video game play and is what draws fans.
Rights & Intellectual Property (I.P.)
Turner decided to create and manage an independent league structure, as opposed to purchasing broadcast rights. However, there are very real considerations which must be made for a video game’s intellectual property rights. In the case of ELeague, Valve Software is the proprietor of the game being played – Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CSGO).
As is the case in traditional sports, competitive gaming events must be managed. Hospitality, ticketing, marketing and promotion are managed accordingly. Considerations for team travel and lodging can also fall within this category.
Given its global fan base, the vast majority of eSports content is consumed remotely, e.g. not in person. Aligning with the sensibilities of hardcore fans as well as advertisers and sponsors is the central challenge for premium eSports content. ELeague represents a case study in balancing these necessities.
— eSportsMarketingBlog (@eSportsMBlog) June 3, 2016
About ‘eSports IQ’
The ‘eSports IQ’ is compiled by Alex Fletcher, the founder and president of Entiva Group, LLC, and features insights on the latest emerging trends in eSports. By curating invaluable content from a wide range of information sources you get the leading edge in the business of eSports.
Past eSports IQs:
- Week 21: ‘Following the Money in eSports’ and more insights
- Week 20: ‘Poker, eSports and the crossover of gaming entertainment’ and more insights
- Week 19: ‘FC Schalke 04’s eSports play – Pros and Cons’ and more insights
- Week 18: The Business of eSports Match-Fixing
- Week 17: ‘Bud Light jumps on the eSports train’ and more insights
- Week 16: ‘Can sports and eSports play nice?’ and more insights
- Week 15: Economics for eSports player unions still missing
- Week 14: ‘The reality of eSports governance’ and more insights
- Week 13: ‘Is Turner’s ELeague for fans or advertisers?’ and more insights
- Week 12: ‘Understanding celebrity investment in eSports’ and more insights
- Week 11: ‘Audiences vs. Viewership in eSports’ and more insights
- Week 10: What does eSports on TV really need?
- Week 9: ‘Cineplex takes a shot at eSports market’ and more insights
- Week 8: ‘The potential of eSports and gaming as mainstream’ and more insights
- Week 7: ‘Vodafone partners with G2 eSports’ and more insights
- Week 6: ‘MP & Silva has been named the global marketing rights partner of Garena’
- Week 5: ‘ESPN continues investment in collegiate eSports’ and more insights
- Week 4: ‘ESPN eSports must exhibit hyper focus’ and more insights
- Week 3: ‘eSports is growing but has not started scaling yet’ and more insights
- Week 2: ‘Deloitte joins the eSports numbers debate’ and more insights
- Week 1: ‘Sport property continues commitment to eSports’ and more insights
Image source: eslgaming.com, Photographer: Adela Sznajder