The next evolution in esports media will launch this month, and it could have a potentially profound effect on esports consumption, engagement and yes — esports betting.
British television network ITV and European broadcaster Sky are teaming up to launch the Ginx eSports Network. Both companies are expected to purchase minority stakes in the venture.
The 24-hour esports channel will air in the U.K. and Ireland, as well as other countries. The channel will be available as part of the Sky sports package and is projected to reach 37 million homes.
It is likely to be billed as the largest esports television network in the world (although one wonders what streaming service Twitch has to say about that.)
Ginx to air CS:GO, Dota 2 competition
The partnership will help relaunch current television channel Ginx TV, which originally launched in 2008 and was only available on cable operator Virgin Media. That channel airs video game-related shows with titles like ‘Console Yourself,’ ‘Videogame Nation’ and ‘ESports Explained.’
Riot, Activision and Gfinity are reportedly “content partners” in the new venture, according to the Hollywood Reporter, but the specifics of such partnerships were not outlined.
Assuming those partnerships can be effectively leveraged with to help Ginx bring on additional events to air, such as the League of Legends World Championships, one thing is clear: A 24-hour esports network will not be hurting for live content to air.
Network could fuel esports wagering
People rely on information to make decisions. Oftentimes those decisions are financial in nature. It’s no great stretch of the imagination to believe a 24-hour esports network will fuel knowledge and consumption of esports.
Just as esports betting can fuel engagement of various game titles, increased engagement of games on a network like Ginx can fuel esports betting, which is expected to exceed $7 billion in handle in 2016, according to research from Narus Advisors and Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.
CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg and other American TV networks provide 24-hour barrages of information related to the world financial markets. Investors, at least ostensibly, use that information to inform their investments.
The function of 24-hour sports networks like ESPN and FS1 is both similar and dissimilar. They provide a similarly constant barrage of sports information, but the people watching the networks — in theory — aren’t using that content to inform financial decisions. They’re just using it to be entertained. (Right.)
Obviously, with U.S. sports betting’s illegal handle believed to reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars in 2015, that is not true. People use what they consume on 24-hour sports channels to inform things other than just fandom. Things like wagers.
A network that proliferates esports will almost assuredly work in the same way, exposing more people (both esports fans already in the space and new esports fans) to matches.
With esports betting currently unregulated and widely available, especially to those in the gaming community, 24-hour esports network consumers have a much smaller barrier to entry to wagering domestically on an upcoming match than traditional sports fans do.
Will enough people watch on traditional TV model?
Esports as an industry is undoubtedly growing. SuperData estimates industry revenues in 2016 will exceed $700 million, with a majority of that figure coming from sponsorships. Around $56 million of that total comes from wagering revenues.
But is esports viewership growing?
The answer, for live streaming
On Twitch, the answer appears to be yes. There are several reasons for this.
- Twitch is easy to use.
- Twitch is free to use.
- Twitch only requires a phone or laptop, and not a physical television to use.
- Twitch established a strong foothold in the esports space, and thus strong customer loyalty, early on.
- Twitch is a no-bullshit brand that’s trusted among gamers.
The answer for traditional TV
The data points for traditional cable television viewership, however, on networks like ESPN (Heroes of the Dorm) and TBS (ELEAGUE) are still relatively few and more importantly, inconclusive.
Both Twitch and TBS Week 3 viewership figures for the ELEAGUE tumbled so far down this past Friday from their Week 2 peak (a promising but not Earth-shattering 386,000 average concurrent viewers) that Turner didn’t even officially announce them.
There were mitigating factors contributing to the decrease, including a Group C final that featured “boring” teams, despite the match itself having several dramatic turns. There was also the slight challenge of Turner’s telecast going up against the NBA Finals’ Game 4.
At times, esports broadcasts have either rivaled or eclipsed viewership for NHL and MLS games. That’s neat. But it also has nothing to do with demonstrating consistent week-over-week growth among esports viewership itself.
Among other requirements for a 24-hour esports network to thrive, gamers either have to embrace watching content on a traditional TV format instead of on Twitch (or Facebook) or new, non-Twitch natives have to come into the fold and tune in.
Whether or not an exciting new experiment like Ginx will achieve that remains to be seen.