F1 and SailGP on building esports gains post-lockdown

By 12th November 2020 No Comments

Formula One head of digital business initiatives and esports, Julian Tan, and SailGP head of content, Jose Garnes, were speaking at the Broadcast Sport Tech Innovation Forum

Esports have made some major gains in 2020, capitalising on the lack of live sport to build their audiences and output.

Among the traditional sports to have taken advantage of this growth in the past eight months have been Formula One and Sail GP. Both hold popular esports competitions that run alongside their original sports, that recently have had to stand alone during lockdowns.

Both saw huge popularity during Covid-19 restrictions, with F1’s offering actually breaking Twitch streaming records for their channel.

F1 head of digital business initiatives and esports, Julian Tan, and SailGP head of content, Jose Garnes, told the Broadcast Sport Tech Innovation Forum what benefits this could have now that live sport is making a comeback.

“The benefit of the wider exposure during lockdown is being seen,” Tan told Forum attendees.

“We’re now racing and have launched our 2021 esports series. Our first show clocked the most viewers we have ever had – over 2 million on digital alone.

“With the lack of live sport, more people were watching esports, so time will tell if those numbers continue to be possible. However, there is broader acceptance of Formula One esports as an option to enjoy.”

Tan believes that esports also brings some advantages that traditional sport cannot, such as better chances for the normal underdogs: “It’s still racing. It’s still compelling racing. You see scenarios that very rarely happen in the real world, such as a Williams or a Haas overtaking a Mercedes. It gives fans of those teams another way to engage with racing.”

The break in live sport also saw linear TV take an interest in esports as a replacement for postponed events, and Garnes thinks that this could make a long-term difference.

“Traditional TV allows you to expand your audience and reach another level,” he said. “People in their 30s or 40s, who maybe played video games when they were younger, now see it.”

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