esports

All Megatrends ESports

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The Alpha Of All Megatrends: ESports

eSports is quickly becoming a dominant force across the world entertainment industry.

With growth set to continue, monetization will follow to around an easy $10 billion.

The industry is young, and so is the target audience. Decades of profits are ahead.

I don't use the word 'megatrend' lightly. It is a precarious word, full of hype and unrealistic expectations. People often think that they can invest in any one of the companies exposed to one of these trends and make bank. Such strategies have lost many people a lot of money over the decades. Think of railroads, airlines, and solar, all boasted as megatrends. Sweeping cemeteries could be filled with the remains of companies that had remarkably short lifespans, their megatrend status notwithstanding. That's not to say that some companies haven't ridden those waves to tremendous profitability. There are some. But it takes time, the maturing of the industry, one or more shake-outs to scrub the losers, and finally stability. Good luck picking the winners.

Most recently, the aging of America and the swelling senior population has been often cited as a megatrend. Yet, the situation is stuffed with nuance, which I wrote in detail about herehere, and here.

I mention all this to underscore the fact when I use the word megatrend, it is not some loose label or click-bait. When it comes to eSports, or the competitive video gaming industry, there is plenty of data indicating how huge the rise has been and will yet be. That isn't to say that there is no nuance here and you can just grab an eSports ETF and have your retirement secured. No, granularity and wisdom are always mandatory for true investing. Nonetheless, of all the megatrend waves to try and catch, I think this one is the easiest.

A Little History

Esports goes farther back than you might think. Ever heard of Spacewar!? It was developed in 1962 and features two spaceships dog-fighting around a gravity pulling star. This was the game featured in the first documented instance of an eSports tournament, hosted by Stanford University in 1972. Competitors played for a year-long subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

Fast-forward to 1980 and we find the first large scale tournament, with 10,000 competitors showing up to clash in Atari's Space Invaders. Then in 1983, the U.S. National Video Game Team was formed and took a bus tour around the country challenging arcade gamers to bouts and even tried organizing contests with other countries.

As the sport grew, so did the number of tournaments. From the Evolution Championship Series ("EVO") to the Nintendo World Championships (OTCPK:NTDOY), both players and spectators started flocking. EVO is of particular mention. Since its inception in 1996, it has occurred every year since 2000, with each year showing considerable growth in a variety of metrics. Featuring only fighting games such as Street Fighter, Smash Brothers, and the like, EVO has garnered a tremendous popular following. EVO 2019, held at the Mandalay Bay for three days in Las Vegas, had 9,000 participants and was streamed to millions of others via various streaming sites. Viewed hours totaled 5.73 million.

The internet has revolutionized the gaming industry. Consoles gave way to personal computers. The prevalence of computers naturally rose to a prevalence of computer gaming, with players able to compete, alone or on teams, against opponents thousands of miles away.

Esports has become so popular that an arena was constructed at The Luxor in Las Vegas to host gaming events:

The 30,000-square-foot, multilevel HyperX Esports Arena is designed to host every form of competitive gaming, from daily play to high-stakes esports tournaments, and features a competition stage, 50-foot LED video wall, telescopic seating, PC and console gaming stations, and a network TV-quality production studio.

A new $50 million dollar facility is under construction in Philadelphia. This is in addition to dedicated eSports facilities in Honolulu HI, Arlington TX, and Burbank CA. Other facilities are outfitting themselves to host eSports events occasionally like Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The worldwide architectural firm HOK, with 24 offices on three continents, is dedicating ever more personnel and resources to the field, imagining high tech and interactive eSports stadiums. HOK was in fact involved in the renovations to Boardwalk Hall mentioned above, as explained in a New York Times article:

HOK, a sports-focused architecture firm with a growing e-sports practice, which helped reconfigure the stage, change the lighting and set up a broadcast studio for live streaming, said Rashed Singaby, a firm senior associate whose previous work includes the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons.

HOK, based in Kansas City, is funneling more resources into the growing field. Two years ago, it had no designers working on e-sports; today, it has 15, said Mr. Singaby, who added he has had commissions for five e-sports projects in the past year.

Developers are now knocking on HOK's door, including owners of empty big-box stores hoping to repurpose them, Mr. Singaby said.

"The numbers don't lie," he added. "The commitment to this ecosystem has been gigantic in the last 10 years. We don't think this is going away."

The parallels to professional physical sports are apparent. Interestingly, eSports has attracted the attention of professional athletes. Back in 2016 previous NBA star Shaquille O'Neal and MLB players Alex Rodriquez and Jimmy Rollins invested in NRG eSports, a professional group that plays League of Legends and Counter-Strike:

I am not suggesting that we use professional athletes as a gauge for whether or not an investment should be made. Rather, my point is that eSports is getting noticed. It is huge and growing. What was once a corner for people to point and laugh it is becoming mainstream, credible, competitive, and scalable.

Massive institutions are in on the action. eSports sponsors include Intel, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, T-Mobile, Audi, and Airbus. eSports events have occurred in London, Madrid, Hong Kong, Paris, and many others.

A Word On League of Legends

This particular game has become so important it deserves a section all its own. League of Legends, currently the most popular game in the world, is one I have personally had considerable experience with as a player and as a spectator. As most who have played will attest, it is addicting. Launched in 2009 by Riot Games [acquired in 2015 by Tencent (OTCPK:TCTZF) (OTCPK:TCEHY)], League of Legends has 80 million monthly users and 27 million daily users across 145 countries. From 2011, that is a CAGR of 36% and 33% between monthly and daily users, respectively. The 2018 League of Legends world championship had more viewers than the NFL Superbowl from that same year. The LoL Esports page on YouTube has 3.2 million subscribers. The video of the 2019 World Championships on that same page has had 5.1 million views. While it is free to play, the game relies on micro-transactions to earn revenue. For example, people can pay to get different "skins", outfits if you will, for the characters they play. Riot brought in $1.4 billion of revenue in 2018. As they and other platforms continue working on monetizing their products, hefty profits will follow. A dedicated eSports facility, complete with dining area and gift shops, sits adjacent to Riot's headquarters in Los Angeles.

So it's popular. But is it profitable?

This is the question that investors want answers. While there is plenty of money involved in eSports, where and when it flows is tricky. An April 2018 article from gameanalytics explains it well:

eSports has come far in 20 years, but while it might be rivaling professional sports leagues in terms of viewership, the financials are a different story. The NFL was expected to generate $14 billion in revenue in 2017, with the NBA hitting $7.4 billion. At its most optimistic level, Newzoo forecasts that global eSports revenue could reach $2.4 billion in 2020.

Video games can be hard to monetize, especially those offered online. The list is long of free to play titles: League of Legends, Fortnite, World of Tanks, Apex Legends, and Hearthstone among many others. These games require people to spend money on extras, which is not necessarily a given or consistent.

That being said, higher education is catching on to the trend, indicating that the space has moved from hobby to profession, as told by a Forbes article:

Ohio State will debut an 80-seat facility in the fall (of 2019) around the time it debuts what it calls "a first-of-its-kind comprehensive esports program" that will include "undergraduate and graduate degrees; an elective course in esports content production; online certification programs for specialized credentials; and a gaming speaker series."

Smaller schools such as the University of North Texas have been engaged in esports for even longer. UNT opened a $200,000 esports facility in 2017, open to any student or faculty member but designed specifically for competition training.

And the 40-year-old private Full Sail University is building a significant portion of its campus life and work opportunities around a new esports arena, team and club, said the school's esports strategist Bennett Newsome.

What the Future Holds

We have established that eSports is ridiculously popular and will very likely continue to grow. We have also established that the monetization of video games has been elusive, and currently sits at a pretty low level. But if the popularity can be coupled with profitable monetization, you have a true megatrend. That was the topic of a fascinating article from venturebeat that is worth reading in entirety, but I will quote and summarize. The article was based on a webinar wherein industry experts held a panel discussion to address the issue of monetization. Some main points:

- Like professional sports, eSports can earn money from media distribution rights, live events, advertising, sponsorship, merchandising, and prize winnings. Unlike professional sports, however, the games themselves are owned, which introduces another avenue of monetization. No one owns football. No one owns basketball. They are without copyright. This is in stark contrast to video games, which are intellectual property and which are owned. Robb Chiarini, director of eSports at Ubisoft, spoke to this in some detail:

If you've ever heard me talk about these things, I talk about how traditional sports have to sell media rights. They have to have sponsors. They have to have advertisers. They have to have all this influx of money, because they don't have anything, at the end of the day. They don't own the ball. You and I could start up a new football league tomorrow if we wanted to and no one can stop us from using that sport as a vehicle for a program. We'd get our own sponsors, do our own things, and we could do anything we wanted. Nobody owns the IP of the football.

With video games, we're in a very different place, in that we can look at things differently if we choose to. As many esports start up, they look at it going, hey, this is a marketing a vehicle, a messaging vehicle, an engagement vehicle, a community retention and engagement vehicle, rather than a P&L against a thing to provide an entertainment that creates profit. For us, owning the game gives us the opportunity that every activity we do, every dollar we spend on an esport, is actually a way for us to engage with our existing communities, create viewership, create playership, create opportunities for monetization within the game and on the game itself.

All of that is super interesting. I believe esports has the biggest leg up against traditional sports in that way. Adding to that-I agree with your list, merch and media rights and things. There are some other things that are interesting. Gambling is out there in the space, not that I'm a proponent or otherwise, but that's a revenue stream that's out there in the world. Fantasy leagues, gambling sites, things like that. Another thing we do in esports, or in gaming in general, is interactive money. When you look at things like Twitch Bits and things of that nature that allow people to purchase around the game, that's different from the traditional sports. That's another revenue opportunity within the ecosystem, and for all of gaming.

Revenue for eSports was $906 million in 2018, broken down as follows:

Jonathan Singer, industry strategist at the content delivery network, cybersecurity, and cloud service provider Akamai mentioned the following to elaborate on that above graph:

I have a little bit of a bomb to throw, which I feel is a good way to start off a panel. That is, we talk about where the revenue is growing to. I think it's supposed to be $904 million this year and then a billion soon enough, with 380 million global viewers. That's a nice size of audience. But when you do the division there, you're talking about $2.60 a user... Is that enough money to go around? It's not a lot of money yet. I know we're growing as an industry, but when we're talking about revenue models, you have to talk about how we're getting there and how we get-everyone's fighting for a slice of that pie.

While today that sounds bad, it also underscores the opportunity, as Kent Wakeford, chief operating officer at eSports organization Gen.G pointed out:

I think what you just framed up is one of the most exciting opportunities in esports. Goldman Sachs had a report recently where they showed that the average esports consumer monetized to about $3.94. Whereas the average consumer in traditional sports is monetizing to about $54. That means there's a 10X opportunity within the esports market to grow and build those connections with fans, to bring them things they're willing to pay for, for their excitement and their fandom and their engagement with teams and players. I view that as an opportunity.

When I look at the revenue growth drivers in esports, I think they're all way under what the reality is going to be. We see it in the viewership. We see what's happening on a global basis with stadiums being built all around the world - in the U.S., in China, in Korea. We see brand sponsors coming in. We see bigger media rights deals happening. We see merchandise. We just saw the announcement with the Overwatch League and Fnatic doing merchandise. It's moving at a much faster speed than a lot of the industry reports have been putting out. That's the opportunity. That's why you see so much capital coming into esports.

The Silver Screen

Another avenue for profitability is turning video games into full-length movies. This has already been happening to some success with the titles "Pokemon: Detective Pikacho", "Rampage", and "Angry Birds 2", "Tomb Raider", and "Prince of Persia". I imagine the trajectory here being similar to how sports have become inexorably tied to cinema. What with hugely popular movies like "Field of Dreams", "Hoosiers", "Miracle", "Rocky", "Rudy", "Remember the Titans", "Radio" and others, don't be surprised to see movies based on video games taking their place among the most popular movies. The difference with video games is that, as was mentioned before, no one owns the rights to football or basketball. I could make a sports movie today and not have to pay a dime of royalties. However, if I tried to make a movie about one of the champions from League of Legends without getting the rights and paying a handsome fee, I could be sued. This could be a vast source of revenue and growth.

See, League of Legends has considerable lore surrounding each of the 146 characters you can play as. Their stories are distinct, yet many are tied to one another. The structure is already in place to make full length features films derived from this lore. In fact, the folks at Riot have already put some stories to cinematics. Feel free to conduct a YouTube search of your own, but this clip tells the story of one Lucian seeking to free the soul of his deepest friend, Senna, who was killed by Thresh, a soul collector:

As the popularity of League of Legends continues to grow, expect big-name studios to start launching themselves into these gamer worlds.

Even the mighty Amazon (AMZN) is getting heavily involved. They purchased the video gamer streaming service Twitch in 2014. Twitch has 15 million daily active users.

Asia

In all my talk of megatrends, I have to mention Asia here. Everyone has talked about Asia, and China in particular, as the next big growth markets. Successful investing in these regions has been challenging as the situation is filled with complications. As it relates to video games, it is valuable to understand the cultural role technology and video games have there. Traditional sports, as we would term them, don't have a huge place in Asian culture. Children are encouraged to study rather than exercise. In contrast, video games are massive in the region. eSports professionals are celebrities. Regarded as the best League of Legends player in history, "Faker" of South Korea is paid $2.5 million dollars a year to play for the eSports squad SK Telecom T1. He dropped out of high school to get on the team.

China alone makes up 57% of the global eSports audience. Ann Hand, CEO of Super League (SLGG), an eSports community and content platform said, "The first place you should go if you care about gamers is Asia, and specifically Greater China, as fast as possible."

If Asia is the next big growth market, video gaming is the industry that will be among those to lead the way there.

Where Traditional Sports and eSports collide

Never ones to look down their nose at potential profits, the world of traditional sports is hitching their wagon to eSports. Nike recently disclosed a four-year sponsorship of the League of Legends Pro League ("LPL") in China. They are to provide shoes and apparel to 16 teams in the region. Of the deal Nike said:

Since its inception, Nike has always believed that in all sports, a strong body and will make athletes better. As China becomes a new e-sports cultural center, Nike is pleased to support the next generation of athletes and establish a long-term cooperative relationship with e-sports to contribute to the future development of sports ecology."

This isn't all. Adidas has signed agreements with the French team Vitality. Puma has linked up with North American team Cloud9 to create signature apparel for gamers. While not necessarily inevitable or to happen soon, eSports may even become part of the Olympic games. A forum was held by the International Olympic Committee and the International Sports Federation last July to discuss the matter. They are steering clear of involvement for now, but the fact that the discussion was had at all is revealing. The proverbial ball is rolling.

Brief Exploration and Conclusion

The final point to make is that the audience for eSports is young. The average video gamer is between 20 and 25 years of age. There are many decades of monetization ahead as these fans age and bring up their own children in the video gaming culture. This is in contrast to traditional sports, where recent data has shown considerable waning interest. The average NFL viewer is 50 years old. MLB is 57 years old. MBA and NHL is 49. This is amid a backdrop of plummeting viewership and emptier stadiums. eSports is young. It is growing. Money is flowing into it. But the best part is that the ship has not set sail yet, as it were. Remember the stats from above where the average eSports consumer monetized to about $3.94 vs. the $54 for traditional sports? Recall also that people are watching eSports more than they are watching the Superbowl. As eSports monetization closes the gap on traditional sports, lucrative might be an understatement. As firms figure out how to monetize eSports, and they are, it is going to be fantastically profitable.

The opportunity exists because profitability has lagged popularity, for now. A quick look at some of the top names in the space shows that market participants are concerned about growth. Tencent currently trades at $43, well off the all-time high of $60 back in the first part of 2018. Activision Blizzard (ATVI) is trading around $55, while back in mid-2018 they were above $80. The breather is an opportunity to buy while monetization takes shape.

As it relates to valuations, value investing purists might shy away from the high P/E ratios of Tencent at 32 or Activision at 25. I prefer to consider these ratios in context, and for both companies, their respective P/E ratios are well off their five year average P/Es of 43 and 51. In that respect, they are cheap. In fact, all the other traditional valuation measures (P/S, P/FCF, etc.) for Tencent are below 5-year averages. Activision is more of a mixed bag. If value is your thing, Tencent may be the better choice. Activision Blizzard owns Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Candy Crush. Tencent owns League of Legends and has a 40% interest in Fortnite. It terms of the most popular games and in demand content, these two are the winners. That should be a good starting point for individuals to conduct their own due diligence.

For exposure to a more pure eSports model, Super League Gaming is interesting in that it doesn't own any games but rather operations in the content delivery and interactive platform space. It connects players through its cloud. They specifically market themselves to the sub-pro audience. The CEO is aiming to create a "Little-League" for eSports. This niche player might be interesting to explore. They had their IPO earlier this year at $8.50 but currently trade at $2.74.

In light of that brief overview, in my upcoming articles, I am going to start jumping into this sector head first. I will begin by exploring several eSports and video-gaming ETFs (NERD) (ESPO) (VIDG) and then move on to individual companies such as Activision Blizzard, Tencent, and Super League Gaming. I hope you join me. For now, the best way to play the trend is to either A) buy one of the above mentioned ETFs or B) buy the stock of the companies who own the more popular titles in the eSports and gaming world.

eSports Boom

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How can brands capitalise on esports boom?

It’s not tricky to understand why Chris Beer, a senior trends analyst at GlobalWebIndex, posits that 2019 is the year esports has come of age.

In late-1997, Tom “Gollum” Dawson triumphed in FRAG (Foremost Roundup of Advanced Gamers), reckoned to be the world’s first official gaming tournament, and won $1,000 (£770) in gaming merchandise.

Twenty-two years later, in August, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, 16, succeeded in the first Fortnite World Cup and took home $3 million (£2.4 million). The teenager was catapulted to fame overnight and even invited on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Signs that esports is on an upwards trajectory

There are plenty of other signs besides that esports is now swimming in the mainstream. Indeed, The Washington Post is hiring specialist reporters, Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has established an esports strategy and, the surest indication, esports has featured on The Simpsons. Twelve months ago, GlobalWebIndex included esports as one of the big trends to watch in 2019.

“It has grown impressively throughout the year,” says Mr Beer. “Our research shows that this time last year 16 per cent of the global population watched esports online; now that figure is 24 per cent. We’ve seen an uptick in most regions around the world, but it’s Asia-Pacific that continues to be the core market; over a third of people (34 per cent) watch esports there, compared to 21 per cent last year.”

Little surprise that advertisers have sought to generate value from esports’ growing popularity. Anheuser-Busch has filed a trademark request to become “official beer of esports”. Similarly bookmakers are eyeing the opportunity to offer a new market.

How brands can capitalise on esports success

Advent of 5G will only drive further growth, says Lior Friedman, vice president of global partnerships and strategy at Amdocs Media, a provider of software and services to communications companies.

“Viewing metrics, prize money and sponsorship are all increasing substantially year on year,” he says, “and esports is being considered for entry into the Olympics as a new discipline for Paris 2024. Our recent research found that nearly all operators (97 per cent) plan to support esports in the 5G era.”

How can advertisers capitalise? “While there is huge potential for advertising in esports, brands need to understand how to engage with the sector,” says Gavin Poole, chief executive of Here East, a media complex located in the Olympic Park in East London.

“Esports fans value an authentic experience and will not react well if large companies simply bombard the community with logos and placement.

“Instead, brands need to consider how they can enhance the esports experience, not detract from it. The most successful brands, such as Redbull, Gillette and Mercedes-Benz, have taken a targeted approach, focusing on specific games and their particular audiences, as opposed to an umbrella marketing campaign that would alienate players and viewers alike.”

Esports Coverage to Be a Sports

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Outstanding Esports Coverage to be a Sports Emmy Award Category

Today, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced that it will add “Outstanding Esports Coverage” as one of its award categories for this year’s Sports Emmy Awards.

The award will recognize the craft behind the delivery of coverage and presentation of competitive, organized video gaming to the viewer during a championship or final event.

While this will be the first award category of its kind, esports entries have received nominations in the past as League of Legends was named the honoree in the “Outstanding Live Graphic Design” Category for in 2018.

“We are entering an exciting new chapter for the Sports Emmy Awards with the addition of an exclusive category dedicated to recognizing excellence within esports,” said Adam Sharp, president and CEO, NATAS. “The category, Outstanding Esports Coverage, illustrates the academy’s commitment to remain on the forefront of the ever-changing world of sports production.”

Esports Experts Plan and Execute

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Esports Production Summit: How Experts Plan and Execute During Current Venue Boom

Esports - focused venues are popping up across North America, and, with the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League set to start home and away games next year, the esports industry appears on the verge of a massive building boom. Esports venues must be extremely flexible since competitions run the gamut in terms of size and style. In addition, esports attendees expect a fully immersive experience beyond just on-stage competition.

At last month’s SVG Esports Production Summit, esports-venue experts addressed best practices in designing and operating a venue, as well as what they expect in this rapidly growing sector.

Moderated by SVG Associate Editor Kristian Hernandez, the panel included:

  • Kristin Connelly, senior director, marketing, Overwatch League
  • Corey Dunn, VP of broadcast, Esports Stadium Arlington/president, Esports Locker
  • Jud Hannigan, co-founder and CEO, Allied Esports International
  • Bob Jordan CVE, CEO, 1337 Facilities/founder, Venue Road
  • Brian Mirakian, senior principal and director, brand activation, Populous

World of Esports Viewership

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Esports Production Summit: Making Sense of the Elusive World of Esports Viewership, Consumption

Founder of Esports Charts Ivan Danishevskyi offers an analytical take on esports ‘ratings’

One of the more hotly debated topics accompanying the rise of popularity in esports is measuring and articulating viewership numbers for major live events. When crunching some of these seemingly massive streaming numbers, it can be difficult to draw parallels with traditional sports or even any form of entertainment.

Esports Charts is a company that analyzes a massive amount of data derived directly from all known streaming platforms (without any outside influence) in order to determine the exact number of viewers, breakdown by their languages, and growth dynamics of subscribers on channels and social networks. This presentation by Esports Charts founder Ivan Danishevskyi offers a look at the state of the market in terms of esports-content consumption.

Esports Content With ESR

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Telemundo Expands Into English-Language Esports Content With ESR 24/7 Channel Deal

Telemundo Deportes, which launched the first-ever U.S. Spanish-language eSports channel earlier this year to tap into a rapidly growing lucrative market, is boosting its eSports offerings to include English-language content to attract a broader audience. To that end, the NBC-Universal owned network signed a multi-platform deal with ESR 24/7 eSports Channel giving it access to "thousands of pieces of English-language content" that will be used across its platforms every year. 

The content will feature the entire range of esports entertainment from over 10 different titles, such as Fortnite, FIFA, Apex Legends and Overwatch. The Telemundo Deportes eSports channel will also have live events, tournament highlights, short-form match highlights, streamers docuseries, reality, and streamers’ content from their partners and influencers. They include: professional streamer Destiny who has nearly 500k followers on his Twitch channel, and gamer and streamer Tobuscus who has 6.3 million subscribers on his YouTube channel.

Among the content that will be available on Telemundo Deportes is Inside Fortnite World Cup, an original documentary series produced by ESR around the Fortnite World Cup, the largest esports competition in history.  

“With the extensive content provided by ESR and the live, daily action from our streamers, we look to continue engaging with the Hispanic gaming community while increasing our involvement with the esports industry,” says Eli Velazquez, EVP of Sports Content for Telemundo Deportes.

The ESR programming will be presented on Telemundo Deportes’ eSports channels available via the Telemundo Deportes app, YouTube, Twitch and Instagram. In addition, Titulares y Más, Telemundo Deportes’ nightly sports and lifestyle show will continue to present esports news and trends, competition segments and special appearances of Telemundo’s streamers.

Telemundo Deportes’ eSports channels will continue to present content produced by its exclusive streamers, including Sofia “Kipi” Ornelas, Juan “Patán” Sotullo and Jaime “neroxx-” Penalosa, who recently joined the network to offer bilingual streams. The three streamers are playing over 70 live hours combined every week. Their content is also available on-demand and in short-form across Telemundo Deportes’ digital platforms.

ESR, the first 24/7 eSports network in the United States, distributes its 24/7 channel and programming through Sinclair backed STIRR platform, XUMO, Sumsung TV, ESPN, Telemundo, and others partners worldwide.

Big carmakers serious About eSports

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Big carmakers get serious about esports

Racing drivers for Renault get some serious training.

Working on improving their reaction times...

Boosting their speed and flexibility...

And yet these drivers may never step into a real racing car.

This is training for esports racing - and it's another sign of just how seriously big brands now take virtual competition.

Jarno Opmeer used to drive real cars for Renault:

(SOUNDBITE)(English) JARNO OPMEER, RENAULT SPORT TEAM VITALITY, ESPORTS DRIVER SAYING:

"Physical training in esports is much more about staying healthy, staying flexible because obviously sitting in a simulator for a big part of the day is going to make you stiff. But you want to stay flexible as much as possible just for quick reactions and coordination and these kind of things."

Renault competes against the other big F1 names in the esports version of the race series.

It rebuilt its team after a disappointing season last year.

And it's just one part of a booming market.

Global esports revenues are forecast to hit 1.1 billion dollars in 2019 - up 27% on last year.

But the Renault team boss says gender balance is still a big worry.

Just 20% of fans are female.

And the numbers are even worse among contestants:

(SOUNDBITE)(English) NICOLAS MAURER, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, TEAM VITALITY SAYING:

"One of the big challenges, and a very interesting area of development for esports, is the number of women being pro in esports which is close to zero right now which is a terrible state, we have to admit."

As for this year, Opmeer is third in the drivers' contest, 43 points behind Ferrari's David Tonizza.

The champion will be decided in final races next week at London's Gfinity Arena.

‘FIFA’ Esports League Reveals Changes to 2020 Season Format

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The show wants to “shed light on how gaming has rapidly evolved from a pastime into top-tier sports”;

Have you ever tried explaining esports without resorting to the awfully reductive “playing video games for money?” It’s not easy.

Never mind the fact that there are plenty of different games and genres in the field, but there are also loads of other factors that contribute to the explosive success of this multi-million-dollar industry (even if the metrics and revenue models continue to be in contention).

Here to penetrate the blinding stage lights is Discovery with a new 45-minute program called Esports: The Rise of the New King. Premiering this August, the show wants to “shed light on how gaming has rapidly evolved from a pastime into top-tier sports.”

The Rise of the New King comes hot on the heels of a co-branding partnership with MSI. The two worked together for the latter’s PS63 Modern laptop, and they’re bumping fists once again for this upcoming documentary.

We had a sneak preview at a recent MSI event, and all things considered, it’s pretty good. We get perspectives from the fans, teams and the industry for an all-encompassing look, including a segment on computer hardware.

It focuses purely on MSI, of course, but it brings up the important link between esports and PC manufacturers. It wasn’t too long ago when desktop computers were predicted to fail, an exiting relic in the face of ever-powerful smartphones. Well, not if gamers could help it. Gaming-targeted hardware and builds were one thing, but the dominance of PC as the esports platform helped pushed sales beyond expectations.

Gaming saved MSI, as any rep would gladly share, and it probably channelled much-needed revenue into other companies too. It was only natural for these companies to ‘give back to the community’, as they so often say, and these endemic sponsorships end up fueling the tournaments that now make headlines and inspire a whole new generation of fans (and PC buyers).

The MSI segment primarily focused on cooling, given their dedicated fight against thermal throttling. It’s an ongoing endeavour at the company even today, and in Rise of the New King you’ll see them playing with liquid nitrogen and blowtorches for temperature tests. They’ve worked with NASA for incorporating space-worthy materials before, but this time it wasn’t just for a light and durable alloy – it’s for heat-shielding properties.

As for the esports itself, the program follows last year’s ESL One New York and MSI MGA finals, so expect to see lots of CS:GO in action; featured teams include Complexity, Fnatic and Avangar. There’s also a brief section on PUBG and battle royale’s meteoric rise, which goes to show how diverse esports can be.

It seems that gaming has ended up intriguing the network as well. “With esports surging in popularity, we have seen its potential and launched Discovery Games Studios to create games inspired by various TV shows from Discovery’s properties,” said VP and GM for Greater China and Korea, Tony Qiu.

Love it, hate it, or just outright confused by it, you can certainly expect to see more esports and gaming developments worldwide