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Why true fans will never watch eSports on TV

Second screen is commonly defined as “using a computing device – normally a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone – to access supplementary content or applications while watching content on another device – typically a television set.”

We’re so used to TV being our primary source of content that this presumption forms the basis of second screen’s definition. And, in most cases, it’s true.

Second screen content is supplementary

Watching TV and using your mobile phone to tweet about a live broadcast, to vote for your favourite contestant in a reality show or to find extra information has become part of our everyday viewing routine.  

But, to date, second screen content has been supplementary.  While it might make us feel more involved or distract us during the boring bits and ad breaks, it hasn’t formed an essential part of the viewing experience.  Content creators and broadcasters have historically struggled to prove a return on investment in second screen content, so although it’s becoming an essential tool for audience engagement, some see it as just another cost associated with making TV programmes.       

But that’s not the case with eSports.

eSports is a digital-first format

Professional multi-player video game contests, known as eSports or pro video gaming, have existed since the first arcade games, but surged in popularity in recent years.  Competitive events fill stadiums with fans and give away millions in prizemoney. With tech-savvy enthusiasts that share and view gameplay online using platforms like Twitch, eSports has not needed traditional media to grow an audience that exceeds 300 million fans.  

But, with an increasing number of mass-media broadcasters wanting a piece of professional video gaming’s audience and eSports set to be the next big broadcast thing, the question is, will the increase in TV coverage cause eSports to fall into the traditional second screen pattern?

Here’s why we think not:  

eSports is turning TV into the second screen

  • eSports is interactive

Unlike television programming, watching eSports is not a passive activity. Viewers engage with content and chat online with gamers during gameplay.  Television viewing doesn’t offer the interaction that eSports viewers expect as part of their viewing experience.

  • There’s too much content for TV

eSports isn’t one game or discipline like tennis or football, it’s a category – like watersports.  One channel can’t cover all that – at best a channel could cover the highlights.

  • Mass media won’t meet the needs of the eSports player

eSports players expect a level of game play detail that will alienate the mass audience of TV.  To appeal to a TV market coverage needs to be accessible – but eSports viewers that play the games want information that wouldn’t appeal to a casual spectator.    

We predict that eSports will continue to primarily engage with its core audience online, while broadcast coverage will become the second screen for professional gaming content – providing supplementary content that attracts a wider audience.

How broadcasters can capitalise on eSports content

  • TV will create emotional connections

By featuring in-depth back stories on key personalities and behind the scenes documentaries about the growth of eSports, broadcast programming can feed fans’ need for insider information and generate emotional investment in the sport with human interest stories.   

  • Broadcast will provide impact for big events

TV is the perfect medium to convey the energy and drama of big eSports championships to those unable to attend.

  • TV will help eSports reach new audiences

Broadcast can potentially provide the mainstream exposure to new audiences that wouldn’t ordinarily discover eSports online – and then open that online world up to these audiences.  The more accessible content shown on TV will help new audiences get an understanding of the way eSports works and act as a gateway to the online content. 

In the eSports world, TV is used to induce newcomers and the pros engage online. While eSports makes the move to mass media and other sports transition from broadcast-only to online distribution, it’s clear that sports content creators are going to need the tools to produce and share content to any platform easily and efficiently.  Get in touch to find out how Forscene solves this challenge.   

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