Sebastien Verlaine, marketing and communications manager at EVS.
Until recently, esports was viewed as the most niche of sports, an up-and-coming series of live events that was followed by a young and very specific audience. However, the reality is that esports organizers have long been delivering live programming to tens of millions of people per event.
Audiences’ viewing figures and the popularity of esports have grown – and are continuing to do so - at an impressive rate. Even so, the sport has been able to maintain an extremely high engagement rate – casual viewers aren’t as apparent in esports as say, football – while simultaneously engaging new fans. To achieve this, the production teams are increasingly investing in their processes in order to help them output the highest-quality live programs.
A part of this has been the investment into technology traditionally used in the production of broadcast programming. While still using Twitch and YouTube as their primary distribution channels, the production facilities of esports tournaments are now just as impressive as the TV compound at any major sporting event.
What makes esports producers different to the traditional content creators though, is the way in which they approach their productions. Many broadcasters create programming in a certain way because that’s how they have done it for years. New technology is a means to supplement existing processes, not reinvent them.
For esports producers though, teams that are used to deploying whatever technology is available for the creation of live events are embracing new technologies. They stretch their capabilities and find new ways of doing things to create programming in a different way.
For example, at an ESL One tournament in Germany, ESL’s production team wanted to find a way to implement live actions replays into their programming. The team worked with EVS to find a way to ingest live feeds from within the game to an EVS server. That recorded feed was from the POV of an observer PC that was placed into the game to watch the action.
Recorded at 120Hz, a replay operator created a replay and slowed it down using an LSM controller – in the same way any football replay operator would be able to. Outputting it at 60Hz – the standard for broadcast delivery – the team was able to create a slow-motion replay for the first time in esports.
It’s this fresh approach to production technology that has helped esports grow into the popular sport it is today. It’s able to take equipment that’s been used at some of the world’s biggest sporting events and find creative ways to use it to fit its specific needs.
What this has led to is an increased interest in esports from the traditional sports-orientated stakeholders. This can be seen in broadcasters like ESPN looking to carry esports tournaments or sports leagues like the NBA or teams like Manchester City putting in place esports equivalents of their core businesses.
Making it attractive to investors was the first effect of esports’ improvement of programming output. Now, major brands like Intel sponsor esports tournaments as well as individual players.
From something that was for a small but passionate audience of fans to a far-reaching sport in its own right, esports has changed. Even so, the approach to creating programming has remained the same. Take the expected and create something fresh.
Esports tournaments are now in a unique position. They’re able to take advantage of an engaged audience and stakeholders while benefitting from interest from new ones. And this is, in part, enabled by the higher-quality programming traditional broadcasting equipment allows them.