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COMMENT: How esports is leading broadcast innovation amid Covid-19

By 16th November 2020 No Comments

Nicolas Estrup, director of product and experience at esports organisation Blast on the pioneering ways esports tournaments have used tech to create content during the pandemic.

2020 has been a turbulent year for everyone, none more so than the sports and entertainment world that has been impacted heavily by the limitations surrounding Covid-19.

Esports has been one of the few industries that has been able to adapt and continue to deliver impressive results and broadcast shows thanks to the industry’s reliance and healthy relationship with technology and innovation. Despite traditional sports coming back onto our screens in recent months, viewership and demand from fans and broadcasters for esports has only continued to grow.

Despite the limitations Covid-19 brings, Blast and much of the wider esports industry have been able to continue to deliver live events. Since March we have been able to put on eight live events across three different games – amassing more than 500 hours of live play. This increased viewership and growth esports has enjoyed has filled the void of traditional sports and entertainment, that have been unable to continue to operate as normal.

Due to these limitations, we had to swap our usual atmospheric arena event format for an online-only event. We achieved this by working as a team to produce the best product possible within the ever changing restrictions posed by hosting an online-only format.

To make this happen, we had to pull together players, teams and production personnel from more than 10 countries, all with varying internet speeds and technical know-how, into one broadcast that goes to over 105 territories and 151m households. 

This meant communicating with integrated OB trucks to 30 remote teams each with rosters of at least five players and remote presenters, analytics and casters – all amounting to 550 external IP video feeds, when the industry standard number was 26.

This was all delivered from our production hubs and studios in London and Copenhagen, while also working with 30 remote staff in other locations in North America and around Europe. 

We also introduced esports’ first ever fan cams, where supporters from all around the world could be incorporated into the live broadcast while their team was playing. This was implemented alongside player cams, so despite them playing remotely from home, their real-time reactions and emotions were a part of the action. These were just two aspects that we incorporated to help bring an arena feel to our online events.

All of this helped us deliver record viewing figures and set a new Brazilian streaming record three times. Our show later this month is also now set to be shown on the BBC.  

Esports still continues to grow and be watched on a massive scale as traditional sport and entertainment come back into the fold.

Traditional media has a different age demographic (older), viewership habit (lean-back) and community engagement (no chat), which is why a TV-specific approach is needed. Esports has been able to cater for everyone by creating a TV product, which appeals to every audience due to the digital functions. 

This has allowed the industry to increase its viewership over the last few months during and after lockdown This year, esports will generate close to $100 million in media rights deals – a number that will grow to almost $400 million by 2021. While total revenue for the year is estimated to be $1.1billion, with media rights being the second biggest source of income behind sponsorship so making sure your broadcast is innovative, engaging and flexible has been key to this success.

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