Lionsgate Home Entertainment is the first Hollywood studio to validate the one-two punch of eSports and livestreaming. The studio is working with Twitch and Major League Gaming on a trio of live StarCraft II tournaments featuring some of the best pro gamers in the world. To make things interesting, Lionsgate is offering $20,000 in cash prizes for the Ender’s Game on Blu-ray Tournament, which celebrates the Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD release of the film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s bestselling sci-fi book.
While there are eSports tournaments running throughout the year, this marks the first time any Hollywood company has stepped into the arena. Lionsgate, the studio behind hit franchises like The Expendables and The Hunger Games, is going beyond targeted ads on livestreams to connect with the gaming audience that seems a good fit for the video game-themed Ender’s Game movie. Anne Parducci, executive vice president of marketing for Lionsgate Home Entertainment, explains why this Hollywood tournament likely won’t be the last in this exclusive interview.
[a]list daily: How long have you had an eye on the eSports industry?
Parducci: I’m sure standard media buys have happened in this space, but doing what we just did with the Ender’s Game on Blu-Ray Tournament is very new for us. We’re taking this to a new level driven by the three-pronged tournament and the livestreaming.
[a]list daily: How did this tournament come about?
Parducci: Our agency Mindshare, which does our media buying and planning, in putting together the media plan for Ender’s Game brought forth the idea that we’d advertise on these networks (Twitch and MLG) and there could be a tournament. We decided to make this something beyond just a media buy, so we added prizing to it and really created something that would attract people’s attention. I then went home and talked to my son about Twitch and MLG. It’s a great way to reach people like him, who are typically so hard to reach. We realize there are other tournaments for League of Legends and other games, but we’re featured there prominently over the course of the Blu-ray launch time period. It’s providing terrific eyeballs.
[a]list daily: How have you worked with Twitch and Major League Gaming on this tournament?
Parducci: We are advertising on the platforms, which is the more traditional thing we’d do. We are working with them and bringing the prize money to the winners of the three tournaments. They need to deliver the eyeballs. We worked with MPRM and our internal PR folks to do a release around and message on the event, but we’re relying on Twitch and MLG to reach the StarCraft II gamers. They’re hosting the tournament, organizing everything and sharing and streaming the tournament.
[a]list daily: What are your thoughts on the fact that Riot Games sold out Staples Center and 32 million people watched the Finals worldwide?
Parducci: ESports is a great way to reach young males. It’s a huge market. I’ve been exposed to it through my two teenage boys, so I’m familiar with that behavior of teens and gaming and Twitch and Major League Gaming. It’s obviously bigger than most everybody knows. The Staples Center event was so incredible and so well attended. With the Ender’s Game program we wanted to reach young males 15-34 for Blu-ray outreach. I can’t think of a better way to promote Ender’s Game.
[a]list daily: What attracted you to eSports as a sponsorship opportunity?
Parducci: With eSports we have uncovered in our industry something that is so huge and so powerful with the young male demographic that it almost amazes me that it’s been there for the taking. I’m grateful we were the first to be able to do it.
[a]list daily: Why did you choose StarCraft II?
Parducci: We could have looked to have partnered with other games, but StarCraft II game takes place in an outer space alien environment. That worked thematically with Ender’s Game since Ender is young boy training to do battle in space. Some of the things he does is pick up a tablet and plays video games as part of his training. Thematically, it seemed that the intergalactic space battles were a great thematic for both the film and the game.
[a]list daily: What opportunities do you see for the rest of Hollywood when it comes to eSports?
Parducci: I believe eSports would work for Hollywood theatrical releases, as well. We’re opening people’s eyes to this channel with this promotion. It’s a very positive environment to work in and it reaches a broad male demographic, whether you’re 13 or 35 or even older. The thing that works so well with Ender’s Game is that it’s been such a famous and popular book over the years that there’s a wide demographic of men and women who have read the book.
[a]list daily: What are your thoughts on the global reach of eSports with StarCraft II players coming from all over the world?
Parducci: Our objective is to promote the U.S. release of Ender’s Game, but we’re getting the extra exposure around the world which will benefit the home entertainment launches in other territories, as well.
[a]list daily: Outside of the video game elements to the book and movie adaptation, what opportunities do you see the global male eSport gaming audience opening up for Hollywood studios?
Parducci: It’s a fantastic opportunity. I have a feeling these two platforms (Twitch and MLG) are getting all kinds of phone calls right now from theatrical film marketing teams and home entertainment teams because this will work for a movie regardless of if it has anything to do with gaming or not. I see this working with action and sci-fi and war movies that are trying to reach that young male demographic.
[a]list daily: What does eSports offer that traditional sports can’t today?
Parducci: Twitch brings the reach into those teens. To be able to do a tournament that’s offering $20,000 in prizing in the world of sports is still somewhat reasonable. It’s exciting for the gamers and meaningful them. We’re not trying to buy out the Daytona 500 here. ESports offers a sizable targetable market that still has a reasonable price. Five years from now these guys will be even bigger with all of the attention it gets. I can see a world 10 years from now where it’s like the NFL draft and these teams will make a lot of money. The notoriety this tournament has gotten in the gaming trades and then over to Variety and more mainstream Hollywood is bringing a lot of attention to this space.
[a]list daily: If this tournament is a success what type of precedent do you hope it opens up for connecting with this largely untapped (by Hollywood, at least) gamer audience?
Parducci: If we have that target demographic in any kind of our media plans moving forward, it’d seem to make sense that we continue to partner with these platforms as much as we can. I have a feeling it’s going to get more competitive. The flexibility they afforded us with this tournament may not happen every week because they’ll become more in demand, but it’s been fun being at the forefront of it and getting the attention we’re getting. We’re very happy with how this is playing out.