Esports Gains Dedicated Platform At IBC 2019

The surge in esports activities and revenues has been recognized by IBC this year in creating a dedicated platform for the field on the last day of its 2019 event in Amsterdam.

The RAI Auditorium will be transformed into an arena for esports featuring live tournaments, including a head-to head between ESL National Championship teams from Germany and Spain in a live ‘Counter-Strike’ tournament on the big cinema screen in Dolby stereo. ESL, formerly known as Electronic Sports League, is the largest esports organizer and production company broadcasting on Amazon’s Twitch TV, which dominates streaming in the field. It is also the world’s biggest esports company, 82% owned by Sweden’s Modern Times Group (MTG).

IBC will also have esports conference sessions during the event, with speakers including senior executives from the British Esports Association, GINX Esports TV Canada, ProSiebenSat.1 Sports from Germany, EVS, Twitch and US video game developer Blizzard Entertainment.

IBC has upped the ante for esports partly in response to the success of last year’s smaller events and activities. It also reflects concerns from broadcasters that they risk losing out on huge opportunities through being too late and ignorant of the field. IBC will have noted the groundswell in the field reflected in some bullish predictions from analysts, culminating in the latest forecast just published by Rethink TV, the research arm of Rethink Technology Research dedicated to video and media. Esports revenue will leap from $900 million in 2018 to $5.05 billion in 2024 with revenues split between game publisher fees, sponsorship, media broadcasting rights, tickets and merchandise, tipping and advertising, according to that firm’s report “Esports on verge of hypergrowth to $5bn plus gambling - Revenue Forecast to 2024”.

That report, which breaks down each revenue stream regionally between North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and the rest of the world, has found that esports revenue growth is accelerating faster than acquisition of new esports enthusiasts, which itself will rise from 154 million in 2018 to 377 million in 2024. This reflects rising revenue per fan, as enthusiasts prove increasingly willing to fork out in various ways, not just to view games and purchase associated virtual merchandise, but also reward stars who have entertained them by making donations, or tips. The latter will be an increasingly important source of revenue for the individual players themselves.

The Rethink TV report also highlights the importance of betting, which it describes as the elephant in the room because it is not normally counted directly as an esports revenue stream. Esports betting generated significantly greater revenue than all other categories combined in 2017 and will increase globally to $5.7 billion by 2014, driven in particular by Asia Pacific with China as the biggest market, according to Rethink TV.

A point made by that forecast and sure to be discussed at IBC will be that for pay TV operators and commercial broadcasters that have yet to make a play in esports, the opportunities will come primarily through growth in casual viewing, attracted by “sanitized” esports competitions with appeal beyond enthusiasts. There will also be opportunities to bid for media rights and therefore Rethink TV’s finding that this revenue sector will climb more steeply than any other category of esports monetization over the next five years, will be of interest at IBC. The report predicts media rights revenues will increase by more than 12 times between 2018 and 2024.

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