Video: Esports Broadcast Production

Esports is entering the mainstream and continuing to grow. Even without the pandemic, esports was set to grow in 2020 and 2021; this growth has only been strengthened by the pandemic. The exclamations about getting paid to pay computer games are gradually giving way to conversations about the sport itself.

In this show, Eric Fischman from Blizzard Games tlks to hosts Michael Clouse and Ben Ganz about his work producing TV shows followig esports, specifically the Blizzard Overwatch league. Overwatch is an action based shooter with a team of 6 playing against another team of 6. This works perfectly for esports because the game is inherently a team event whereby each gamer has to rely on others in his team.

Eric produces the daily pre- and post-show for the event and says that the workflows he uses are no different from those at ESPN or similar sports broadcasters. The only difference is that they have an added function – observers. Observers act as camera operators within the game showing key events from behind the perpetrator’s shoulder or from above to see everything unfold.

Eric sees his job as to humanise the stars which helps the viewers connect and care about them. Just like traditional sports will have colour pieces which tell you more about the athletes you like, so do these shows give you the same insight into the individuals but also the story of the event as a whole.

Investors are currently very happy to come in and buy teams. Eric explains that Blizzard’s approach is to establish geographic teams such as London, Singapore and a whole host of American cities. And it’s not just VCs behind the action, Comcast Sports Group has bought in the Philadephia team,

The gamers work hard, often 12 hours a day learning the game and its changes. This can lead to mental fatigue or other problems so players get a week or more off between most tournaments. While they’re doing that, they figure about what the ‘meta’ of the game is. This is another word for determining the best approach to winning the game and as the game is patched, the meta can change.

An interesting discussion is what’s the longevity of esports both as a genre of sports and per game. Since the mid 1850s, we have been playing rugby. We will still be playing esports in 100 years time, but will they be recognisable?

There was a lot more to the conversation so please:
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Speakers

Eric Fischman Eric Fischman
Features Producer, Global Broadcast
Blizzard Entertainment
Ben Ganz Ben Ganz
President,
Vego
Michael Clouse Host: Michael Clouse
Host & Producer
I COULD NEVER BE

Video: Where The Puck Is Going: What’s Next for Esports & Sports Streaming

How’s sports streaming changing as the pandemic continues? Esports has the edge on physical sports as it allows people to compete from diverse locations. But both physical and esports benefit from bringing people into one place and getting the fans to see the players.

This panel from Streaming Media, moderated by Jeff Jacobs, looks at how producers, publishers, streamers and distributors reacted to 2020 and where they’re positioning themselves to be ahead in 2021. The panel opens by looking at the tools and the preferred workflows. There are so many ways to do remote production. Sam Asfahani from OS Studios, explained how they had already adopted some remote workflows to keep costs down but he has been impressed at the number of innovations released which help improve remote production. He explains they have a physical NDI Control room where they also use VMix for contribution. The changed workflows during the pandemic have convinced them that the second control room they were planning to build should now be in the cloud.

Aaron Nagler from Cheesehead TV discussed the way he’s stopped flying to watch games and has changed to watching syncronised using LiveX Director with his co-presenter. Within a few milliseconds, he is seeing the same footage so they can both present and comment in real-time. Intriguingly, Tyler Champley from Poker Central explains that, for them, remote production hasn’t been needed since the tournaments have been canceled and they use their studio facilities. Their biggest issue is that their players need to be in the same room to play the game, close to each other and without masks.

Link to video

The panel discusses what will stick after the pandemic. Sam makes the point that he’s gone from paying $20,000 for a star to stay overnight and be part of the show. The pandemic has made it so that sports stars are happy to be paid $5,000 for the two hours on a programme without having to leave their house and the show saves money too. He feels this will continue to be an option on an on-going basis, though the panel notes that technical capability is limited with contributors, even top dollar talent without anyone else there to help. Tyler says that his studio has been more in demand during Covid so his team has become better at tear-downs to accommodate multiple uses. And lastly, the panel makes the point that hybrid programme making models are going to continue.

After some questions from the audience, the panel comments on future strategies. Sean Gardner from Xilinx talks about the need and arrival of newer codecs such as AV1 and LCEVC can help do deliver lower bitrates and/or lower latency. Aaron mentions that he’s seen ways of gamifying the streams which he hasn’t used before which helps with monetising. And Sam leaves us with the thought that game APIs can help create fantastic productions when they’re done well, but he sees an even better future where APIs allow information to be fed back into the game which will be able to create a two-way event between the fans and the game.

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Speakers

Jeff Jacobs Moderator:Jeff Jacobs
Executive Vice President & General Manager,
VENN
Aaron Nagler Aaron Nagler
Co-Founder,
Cheesehead TV
Sam Asfahani Sam Asfahani
CEO,
OS Studios
Sean Gardner Sean Gardner
Snr Manager, Market Development & Strategy, Cloud Video,
Xilinx
Tyler Champley Tyler Champley
VP Marketing & Audience Development,
Poker Central

Video: Winner takes all: Unlocking the opportunity in video games and esports.

Even without the pandemic, esports was set to continue its growth over 2020. By the end of 2020, esports had had quite a boost while other sports were canceled. And whilst esports is a large market, it’s still often misunderstood by those unfamiliar with it. This panel recently looked at not only how Covid had changed esports but also how traditional broadcasters can engage with this popular entertainment segment.

The session starts with an overview of the Asian esports market with Daniel Ahmad from Niko Partners. In 2019 there were 1.3 billion gamers in the whole market. In China, there were 321 million PC gamers who spent around $14.6 billion, plus a mobile gaming population which, by 2024, will have doubled their spending to $32 billion across 737 million gamers.

With esports clearly on the rise, the Sports Video Group’s Jason Dachman has brought some of the key players in esports together, Anna Lockwood from Telstra, Steven Jalicy from ESL, David Harris from Guinevere Capital and Yash Patel from Telstra Ventures. Straight off the bat, they tackle the misconceptions that mainstream media has regarding esports. Steven from ESL says people are quick to dismiss the need for quality in esports. In some ways, the quality needs, he says, are more demanding. David Harris says that people overstate esports’ size today and underestimate how big it will be in the future. Anna Lockwood on the other hand sees that people don’t realise how different and powerful the stories told in esports are.
 

 
Asked to talk about how Covid changed ESL’s plans in 2020, he explained that at the final count, they had actually done more events than last year. ESL had already switched to remote working for much of the technical roles in 2018, at the time seen as quite a forward-thinking idea. Covid forced the rest of the workflows to change as stadium appearances were canceled and gamers competed remotely. Fortunately, the nature of esports makes it relatively easy to move the players. Post-Covid, Steven says that arenas will be back as they are very popular and an obvious focus for tournaments. Seeing players in the flesh is an important part of being a fan. But much of the technical changes, are likely to stay at least in part.

Jason Cacheman asks the panel why esports on linear TV hasn’t been very successful. Many of the panelists agree that the core fans simply aren’t that interested in watching on linear TV as they already have a set up to watch streamed which suits them, often, much better. After a question from the audience, their suggestions for incorporating linear TV into esports is to acknowledge that you’re talking to a group of people who are interested but really don’t know, possibly, anything at all. Linear TV is a great place for documentaries and magazine shows which can educate the audience about the different aspects of esports and help them relate. For instance, a FIFA or NBA esports tournament is easier to understand than a Magic: The Gathering or League of Legends tournament. Linear TV can also spend time focussing on the many stories that are involved in esports both in-game and out. Lastly, esports can be a conduit for traditional broadcasters to bring people onto their digital offerings. As an example, the BBC have an online-only channel, BBC Three. By linking esports content on both BBC Two and BBC Three, they can get interested viewers of their broadcast channel to take an interest in their online channel and also have the potential to appeal to core esports fans using their digital-only channel.

Other questions from the audience included the panel’s opinion on VR in esports, use of AI, how to start working in esports, whether it’s easier to bring esports engineers into broadcast or the other way round. The session finished with a look ahead to the rest of 2021. The thoughts included the introduction of bargaining agreements, salary caps, more APIs for data exchange, and that what we saw in 2020 was a knee-jerk reaction to a new problem; 2021 will see real innovation around staying remote and improving streams for producers and, most importantly, the fans.

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Speakers

David Harris David Harris
Managing Director,
Guinevere Capital
Steven Jalicy Steven Jalicy
Global Head of Streaming,
ESL Gaming
Anna Lockwood Anna Lockwood
Head of Global Sales,
Telstra Broadcast Services
Yash Patel Yash Patel
General Partner,
Telstra Ventures
Jason Dachman Moderator: Jason Dachman
Chief Editor,
Sports Video Group

Video: Esports for Broadcasters – Part III

In the last of three sessions on esports, the RTS Thames Valley looks at how vendors for the traditional sports market can adapt and serve this quickly growing market.

Guillaume Neveux from EVS sets the scene talking about the current viewing figures (44 million concurrent peak viewers for League of Legends) and revenue predictions of a 40% increase over the next three years. This is built on sponsorship and, like TV, this takes the form of ad insertion, and programme sponsorship (i.e. logo on screen) to name but two options. Esports has an advantage as they can control the whole world the sport takes place in. This means that advertising signs can be placed, live, on objects in the live stream which are seen by the viewers but not by the players, something which has been attempted in traditional sports but has yet to become common.

Guillaume also looks at how Twitch and YouTube Gaming work, commenting that one of their big differences from traditional sports is the chat room which scrolls next to the game itself. This lends a significant feeling of community to the game which is seldom replicated in traditional sports broadcasting. In general, esports is free to watch. Freemium subscriptions allow you to reduce the number of adverts seen and also improve the chat options.

The next part of the talk spotlights some of the roles unique to esports. The Caster is analogous to a commentator. They are there to weave a story, to explain what’s happening on screen and to add colour to the even by explaining more about what’s happening, about the people and about the game itself. Streamers are individuals who stream themselves playing computer games who, like YouTube personalities, can have extremely large audiences. An Observer is someone who moves around the game world but is invisible to the players, they are analogous to camera operators in that they can control their own view of the world and are also responsible for choosing which views from the players are seen. Essentially they are like a sub vision mixer feeding specific shots into the main programme as well as, in some circumstances, creating dedicated streams of shots for secondary streams. Graphics operators are just as important as in other types of programmes although aspect ratios are all the more tricky and this also involves integration into the game engines.

Guillaume also covers the equipment used by esports broadcasters. EVS is a premium brand with products honed to a very specific market. Guillaume explains that although the equipment may seem expensive, the efficiencies derived from buying equipment designed for your workflow a notable compared to creating similar workflows out of other equipment typically due to the added complexity, maintenance and workflow fit. At the end of the day, much of what traditional sports and esports needs is similar – slowmo, replays, graphics insertion – so only some modifications were needed to the EVS products to make them fit into the needed workflows.

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Speakers

Guillaume Neveux Guillaume Neveux
Business Development Manager EMEA,
EVS