Why Minute Media has branched out into esports

Digital sports publisher Minute Media launched its esports brand DblTap a year ago with the aim of covering news and analysis around gaming and the players.

“There was very little storytelling around the sport. There was no time with players before and after they’re onstage or understanding what life on tour is like,” said Duncan McMonagle, svp and gm of esports at Minute Media. “We’re committed to showing esports fans what it’s like on the ground. There’s not enough time in the streaming broadcast to tackle that, and esports is still so nascent.”

DblTap has a video team of 20 creating roughly 150 videos a month. Fans create 70 percent of its written articles, which is lower than Minute Media’s other brands — 90min and 12up — because the publisher bought nonexclusive highlights rights from DreamHack and the Electronic Sports League. This gives the publisher more access to players to make content around the broadcast, like following players offstage in an informal setting, for instance, using polls and interactive quizzes that get broadcast during the live feed, often streamed on platforms like Twitch or YouTube.

Audience to the site has doubled over a year to 6.5 million unique monthly users, and average session length is four minutes, McMonagle said. Esports has a global audience of 380 million this year, a year-over-year growth of 14 percent, according to a report by gaming research company Newzoo.

Naturally, this has attracted interest, and TV broadcasters have been getting into esports in various ways. Telemundo broadcast FIFA’s esports World Cup. ESPN broadcasts live gaming competitions and has reporters covering esports news and tournaments. Turner has an esports league. Esports audiences are young and predominantly male. Distributing esports content to TV, in theory, would bring down the average age, something broadcasters are eager to do — though esports audiences are used to viewing on digital platforms. According to Minute Media, 50 percent of esports viewing happens on desktop because it needs more processing clout.

“The audiences are large so publishers are interested, and the demographic is why brands want to play there,” said McMonagle. The same Newzoo report found that brands are expected to invest $694 million (£512 million) in the esports industry, 77 percent of the total market. This will grow to $1.4 billion (£1 billion) by 2021. However, research from Minute Media found that the average revenue per fan in esports is 10 percent that of traditional sports fans.

“Investment trails engagement,” said McMonagle. “The spend is significantly lower from brands than traditional sports.” He said this risk aversion is fueled by not being able to prove return on investment “It’s reach, exposure and engagement,” he said. The publisher is working with roughly a dozen brands, including Warner Bros. and PepsiCo, and the average campaign length is around two months.

DblTap is only in the English language for now. According to the publisher, half of its audience is in the U.S., 15 percent is in the U.K., and it has audiences in Germany, Brazil and countries in Southeast Asia. Minute Media’s football brand, 90min, is in 12 languages. The publisher has been able to scale globally because it spent five years working on its proprietary tech platform before it began monetizing content in 2015.

“The technology came first, and the media came second,” said Asaf Peled, CEO and founder of Minute Media. Minute Media’s tech platform has to be simple and powerful enough for users can upload their own content before Minute Media editors moderate and publish it.

According to Peled, the company has 180 employees across its London, New York and Tel Aviv, Israel, offices, and its annual revenue in the tens of millions. Roughly 30 percent of this comes from licensing its content or technology to media companies like ProSieben, which is a strategic investor; MSN; Yahoo; and Time Warner. The rest is from advertising, including programmatic, sponsorship and branded content.


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