PAX West: The Art Of Pitching Your Game

Matt Turnbull, executive producer at Xbox Game Studios Publishing will be headlining the workshop Pitch Perfect: The Art Of Pitching Your Game, at PAX West.

Read on for a preview and some pre-panel recommendations.


Pitching Your Game In An Uncertain Market—It Can Be Done 

According to game publishing veteran Matt Turnbull, it’s possible to get a game publisher to take you—and your yet-to-be-published game seriously. But it requires a well-planned elevator pitch that focuses on the essentials—why your game is one-of-a-kind and a potential asset, rather than a gamble, for a game publisher. 

According to the workshop’s blurb, “selling your ideas isn’t a trick, it’s not a manipulation – it’s about communication and collaboration.” Turnbull promises to decode game publishers’ criteria for choosing “the one” as well as how indie developers can most efficiently communicate that value in terms that will resonate with publishers.


Get Panel-Prepared

Watch: PAX streams here, while in-person attendees can attend the workshop today from 6:00 – 7:00PM PST at the Sasquatch Theatre (Sheraton, Level 2).

Listen: Steve Fowler of A List Games discusses the importance of honesty in building connections with audiences and the major players in the gaming ecosystem.

Read: More A List Games content in Game Publishing 101 – discover what drives publishers and the industry.

What Marketers Can Learn From SVOD’s Rise

Years ago, when “cord-cutting” was a new phenomenon, networks, brands and marketers struggled to understand if streaming video on demand (SVOD) could ever really supplant “regular” television as America’s favorite source of entertainment. Now, not only has SVOD outpaced over-the-air networks but consumers’ taste has evolved in response. The result? The elevation of user experience from an aspect of a streaming channel’s overall value to consumers to a key differentiator. Not only is the same network TV content available through multiple channels, but much of the same original content produced by streaming channels is available on multiple platforms. That makes multiple streaming subscriptions hard to justify for some consumers—and some of the biggest SVOD brands, like Netflix, have experienced bracing losses. What’s the difference between SVOD winners and losers? An old idea—the same one that launched and sustained the ‘golden age’ of television for decades: great content and ads that were relevant, well-placed and engaging.


The Data

A new report by Infillion, “The Consumer-Defined Future of Streaming is Here,” reveals some encouraging news for marketers seeking to advertise with SVOD platforms. While 38 percent of consumers in the Infillion survey “always or usually” avoid ads, a majority (62 percent) reported that they at least “sometimes” watched ads. Of this number, 34 percent of views “always or usually” watch ads.

For the majority of those who pay attention to ads, most are usually multitasking (61 percent) or talking to friends or family (54 percent). That means that while consumers are distracted during commercial breaks– they aren’t inaccessible to marketers’ brand messaging—and most do not mute ads (only 39 percent do). Just as SVOD challenged TV networks for consumers’ attention, brand marketers can reach consumers on SVOD by understanding how consumers, empowered by a range of content choices, decide where to assign their attention.

Consumers Don’t Mind Ads—Really

According to the Infillion report, while 63 percent of consumers say “ads while streaming are invasive,” 50 percent agree with the statement “ads tailored to you and your interests are good,” and almost the same number believe that “ads online accurately reflect my interests.” 

Viewers Are Open To Ads From Unfamiliar Brands

Another 70 percent state that they prefer to see ads from a range of brands, not just ones targeted to them. That means the right content, shown at the right time, can reach even the most discerning consumers—viewers who are paying for the privilege to select their content. 

Be Smart About Ad Frequency And Relevance

As the opportunities for brand marketers to advertise on SVOD channels evolve, marketers should ensure that the content that they share and the frequency that they place ads reflects consumers’ new ability to find the same content in multiple locations: too many ads or too many irrelevant ads may cause them to seek their favorite shows on other networks. 

Start Planning That (Relevant) Campaign

The good news: 62 percent of consumers think that relevant ads are worth watching, according to the Infillion report.

a.network Launches Nightcap, A Full-Service Gaming And Entertainment Agency To Manage Global 360, Social, And GTM Campaigns 

The global gaming audience now represents one-third of the world’s population: 3 billion people. [1] New agency Nightcap, launched by a.network, plans to help innovative brands identify new marketplace opportunities and develop bespoke products to meet the diversity of needs presented by this global, multicultural audience.

For Max Ornstein, Senior Director of Client Services, that starts with developing a culturally inspired strategy born of data-driven insights on what ignites consumers’ passions for products and experiences.

“At Nightcap, we understand that the global gaming audience is one of the most diverse and highly coveted customer bases, and we take our expertise in reaching them and apply that to everything we do,” stated Ornstein. “We make it our mission to understand why people talk about what matters to them. This allows us to organically and authentically engage with the most relevant audience segments to achieve our partners’ goals.”

Nightcap is composed of veteran gamers, technologists, creatives, strategists, and analysts, all steeped in cutting-edge marketing trends and brand development with years of working with the world’s leading gaming and entertainment brands. Nightcap’s recent campaign wins include Ubisoft, Epic Games, Amazon, Electronic Arts, and Activision.

According to Rebecca Baroukh, Nightcap’s Director of Strategy, the company makes “Work That Thinks” – integrated, data-driven solutions that respond to and evolve per consumer needs and client objectives. 

“Strategy sits at the core of everything that we do. We believe that every choice that we make needs to have a clear answer to the age-old question of ‘why.’ Whether it’s something as creative as a trailer or as tactical as a go-to-market plan, we’ve got an insight to back it up!”

From research to the campaign positioning, from GTM planning to the creation of social assets, key art and video to media placement and influencer activations, Nightcap can integrate new solutions at any level, Baroukh states. 

Nightcap is backed by a.network. As Matt Bretz, Chief Creative Officer, explains:

“Nightcap shares the DNA of all a.network business units that inclines us to listen first. Gauge the conversation. The sentiment. Only then decide what to create and how to share it. So our work is led by its audience. Sought by them. And shared by them. Nightcap’s defining personality trait is “work that thinks.” If you have a new product or a challenging product or a niche audience you need to cultivate, Nightcap will create bespoke solutions you won’t find anywhere else in the industry.”

Nightcap is led by Max Ornstein (Senior Director of Client Services), Daniel Krechmer (Group Creative Director), Rebecca Baroukh (Director of Strategy), Abhaya Hess (Director of Project Management) and supported by a team of more than 24 creatives and support staff.

For business inquiries, please contact cheers@nightcap.net.

Streamer Sponsors Bring Immersive Activations To Comic-Con 2022

Everything old is new again, especially if you’re a member of Gen Z—just ask Kate Bush, who is enjoying a career refresh due to Stranger Things. Content brands are again showing up at conferences and pulling out all the stops for visitors with experiential activations.

While the pandemic kept fans away from San Diego’s Comic-Con for two years, it maintained virtual events. Yet this year’s roster of supporters is vastly different from last year’s virtual event.

Save for Showtime, the industry’s biggest streaming channels were not listed as brand sponsors. This year, streaming services are facing the challenge of standing out in a world awash in lookalike content, and Gen Z, one of the most attractive consumer demographics, holding $360 billion in disposable income, watch as much long-form content online as short-form according to recent research. That’s led some of the world’s most recognizable content brands to partner with the most famous nerd culture conference: Comic-Con.

Legacy streamers and channels with multi-format fan favorites are marquee sponsors of San Diego’s Comic-Con

Streamers and new Comic-Con 2022 sponsors like Prime, Hulu and ABC must fight for a piece of a hyper-competitive market while tangling with the likes of TikTok and YouTube for Gen Z’s attention. Streamers like Hulu must make their platforms seem worth paying for in a landscape that offers popular forever free, Gen Z-targeted alternatives like Paramount’s Pluto TV. Pluto TV provides access to popular TV shows and movies on-demand via dedicated “super fan” channels that run a single show 24/7; that’s a critical detail. As much as 66% of Gen Z still uses a TV set to watch their favorite shows each day, 96% subscribe to at least one streaming service and 76% of households reported in one study that they own a smart TV. That means traditional channels like ABC with a strong digital presence and legacy streamers like Hulu (home of global anime megahit Attack on Titan) have a chance to craft a new, self-replenishing audience from 13-24s. Digital natives are content super consumers; they are not likely to abandon their favorite superheroes and Anime characters once they grow up and are out of college. It also means a new layer of competition for streamers: Gen Z is as likely to binge-watch anime on one of Pluto TV’s dedicated channels as they are to turn to a paid streaming channel.   

A yearly pilgrimage for influencers and nerd culture superfans, Comic-Con is where channels with the most substantial offerings (and the most to lose) are A/B testing innovative marketing strategies, including social watching through private label platforms. For example, Amazon Prime is livestreaming a cast Q&A session for its upcoming The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on YouTube, while Marvel is doing so directly from its website in addition to YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. Livestreams are useful for streaming content brands because it ramps up on-site engagement, ensuring that visitors, already fans, will activate their own social networks during the event. Bringing non-attendees to livestreams makes it easier for targeted ads to work as they should — driving casual viewers to the platforms to discover related content.

Comic-Con, superfans and IRL social watching

Gen Z, just like any other demographic, has distinct characteristics that make them appealing to advertisers. For example, back in 2017, Hulu asserted that Gen Z would define the future of television in an internally published whitepaper. It found that:

  • 70% of Gen Z respondents equate “watching TV” with watching via an online source.
  • Gen Z is less likely to actively avoid watching advertising and over 50% said they don’t mind or even enjoy watching TV ads.
  • 60% of Gen Z respondents prefer to “binge” a show, watching multiple episodes at a time – compared to just 40% of Gen X.
  • Gen Z is motivated by a need to be “in the know” about TV to be part of the social conversation. 20% have posted about a show… without actually watching it.

Now that all demographics tend to binge-watch and consumers can find the same shows and movies on numerous platforms, networks like Apple TV and Peacock TV are looking for new ways to inspire brand loyalty. 

These brands likely see appealing to Comic-Con attendees as key to building their reputation as a source for unique, superfan-worthy content organically and important as they roll out new engagement tools like series-specific AR apps. That’s especially true for prestige drama networks like Apple TV+, which brought the cast of its hit Severance to the San Diego conference.

Like Attack on Titan, Severance is a cross-over content phenomenon that appeals to the young Gen Z fans, Millennials, and older Gen X parents who tend to form the bulk of Apple TV+’s subscribers.

In the case of HBO, 20% of its subscribers are devoted to a single program, which drives their engagement. While that’s a minority of viewers, these superfans can be powerful influencers within their social circle, especially when it comes to drawing friends and family to subscribe to a streaming service: ‘It’s worth it’ means a lot more when it comes from a loved one or friend.

For Apple TV+, however, the stakes may be just as high as for HBO Max in terms of reaching younger demographics. The much newer streamer is close to approaching HBO Max’s global market share (7%) at 5.6%. That makes immersive brand activations an important marketing opportunity for the streaming service to gain an advantage with new audiences.

Apple TV+’s immersive fan experience for the show, Welcome to Lumon, takes visitors through a maze of orientation scenes drawn from the drama’s Emmy-winning season. Designed to introduce non-viewers to the series while inspiring fans to post to Apple TV+’s social channels, #welcometolumon does double duty for Apple TV: Raising awareness of an often overlooked streaming service while introducing its strongest drama to a new generation of viewers who might not otherwise search for a dystopian office drama.

An old-school spin on social media

Shifting demographics to include the next generation of young adults currently requires streamers getting everyone watching together via a watch party or sharing content where users are the stars via social media. 

Enter immersive social media: it means pulling consumers into branded content, literally. It’s an idea that has been embraced by the granddaddy of them all, Marvel, which is streaming live from Comic-Con on Marvel.comYouTubeTwitterFacebookTwitch, and Whatnot. Marvel is streaming but also connecting with fans onsite while building anticipation for live reveals of the upcoming MCU slate and immersive exhibits.

While that’s not a huge shift in Marvel’s marketing strategy, it reflects how the home of the world’s most lucrative youth-targeted content next to Disney is willing to remind its audience (and platforms) that streaming networks rely on the studios for binge-able content.

For example, HBO’s House of the Dragon immersive experience featured seven themed stages allowing fans to walk through a virtual set. In addition, attendees could download a preview of HBO’s new augmented reality app, DracARys, which lets users hatch and interact virtually with an AI-powered dragon in real life. Watch the video here.

Game of Thrones activation at Comic-Con 2022.
Picture: HBO/Twitter

The Takeaway:

As networks and streamers present new ways to engage conference attendees online and onsite, they also create gram-worthy content that influencers and mere mortals would share. The in-person angle is an old-school way of creating brand ambassadors – but in the age of Instagram and TikTok, cool immersive experiences can go much further to drive consumer awareness and online engagement. With immersive marketing, the sales funnel can be entered anywhere – and brands like Marvel and HBO are happy to spend millions to bring consumers along for the ride. 

Stream Hatchet Report: Brands In Gaming And Esports

To help marketers understand the most effective way of attracting audiences on gaming platforms, Stream Hatchet’s latest report, Brands in Gaming and Esports, analyzed the presence of nearly 2,000 brands in video game streaming across the top 500 channels on Twitch. 

The most popular campaign activations used by brands in esports and livestreaming, it found, include esports tournaments, team organizations where brands utilize jersey patches to capture impressions or create sponsored content around the team and in-game activations where brands are creating characters or virtual versions of their product. 

Key takeaways include:

  • Advertising in livestreaming and esports is quickly growing yet still provides advertisers with somewhat untapped potential to reach the elusive 18- to 34-year-old demographic.
  • The best livestreaming campaigns are those in which the advertisements are creative and engaging, so making connections with content creators around authentic activations is key to earning the trust of gamers and gaming fans.
  • As opposed to simply adding a logo where livestream viewers will see it, brands should work with livestream influencers to activate on their social media platforms and have them use the product live whenever possible.
  • Chatbots offer context to viewers who are interested in learning more about a product. Utilizing QR codes, surveys and banners can usher potential customers to the right pages.

Hours watched of sponsored video game streams grew 211 percent over the last two years. There were 1.2 million sponsored streams in 2021 and 571 minutes watched. Additionally, 2.34 percent of Twitch’s hours watched were of sponsored streams. There were 153 million sponsored streams in Q1 2022 and 130 million in Q2 2022. 

As livestreaming and esports have grown, brands have started to take notice and as a result, the number of content creators sponsored by brands has increased substantially since Q1 2020, the report found. 

Given gamers and streamers use computers and peripherals to play games, electronic hardware brands have become active advertisers in the livestreaming space. The top categories on Twitch by logo presence in Q1 2022 were electronic hardware (8.8 percent) with 3,000 appearances, followed by apparel (7.3 percent) with 2,500 appearances, household goods (4.3 percent) with 1,500 appearances, beverages (4.2 percent) with 1,400 appearances and automotive (3.3 percent) with 1,100 appearances.

The top categories on Twitch by chat engagement tell a somewhat different story of the top brand categories on the platform in Q1 2022. Electronic hardware (22.4 percent) maintains its position in first place with 20.3 million mentions, marketplace (18.7 percent) with 17 million mentions, web browser (7.3 percent) with 6.6 million mentions, beverages (6 percent) with 5.5 million mentions and payments (4.4 percent) with 4 million mentions.

Gamers and streamers often resort to fast food during long nights in front of their computers. Brands like KFC and Wendy’s have activated with gamers in the past, creating in-game characters and events, and the former even building its own console. During Q1 2022, McDonald’s led the way with 1.3 million mentions, KFC with 878,000 mentions, Subway with 381,000 mentions, Wendy’s with 360,000 mentions and Burger King with 151,000 mentions.

Long hours of gaming and streaming require constant fuel. For gamers and streamers, that means a consistent supply of snacks. In Q1 2022, Doritos (42 percent) held the top spot as the most-mentioned brand with 458,000 mentions, followed by Cheetos with 273,000 mentions, Pringles with 212,000 mentions, Cheez-it with 53,000 mentions and Ruffles with 40,000 mentions. 

Doritos stood out with a mix of highly produced esports tournaments and the creation of a custom chip emote that streaming fans are able to use when talking about snacks. According to Stream Hatchet, there’s still plenty of room in livestreaming’s snack category for more brands to activate and nurture greater brand affinity.

The automotive industry also increased its gaming presence dramatically over the last few years. Many of the more prominent streamers have used their new incomes to purchase luxury vehicles that they discuss with fans on the platform. Esports teams and creators have also partnered with car brands for promotions around upcoming events.  

Along with fast food and snacks, comfortable clothing ensures gamers and streamers can be online for several hours per day. Sportswear brands have recognized and capitalized on this, positioning their logos onscreen for livestreaming audiences around the world to notice. Some brands have even embarked on creative collaborations such as Cloud9’s lifestyle clothing line with Puma. The brands mentioned most on Twitch in Q1 2022 were Nike (45.5 percent), Adidas (23.4 percent) and Puma (15 percent).

In the last year and a half, NFTs were increasingly discussed on Twitter with 290 million mentions. Coinbase partnered with esports league Blast Premier to engage with Counter-Strike players and fans, a collaboration that saw 141 minutes of exposure time and 676 million impressions. 

Sponsoring streamers to promote a new game or chapter release is a surefire way to increase awareness on livestreaming platforms, according to Stream Hatchet. The top three in-game event streamers, the report found, were: Nickmercs (57,815 hours watched), Swagg (48,642 hours watched) and JusKerrs (21,417 hours watched). 

Call of Duty aimed to drive engagement for its Warzone game by releasing a King Kong vs. Godzilla crossover event on Twitch. From May 11 to May 18, 2022, “Godzilla” was mentioned on Twitch over 30,000 times, while “King Kong” was mentioned 17,800 times.

Birkenstock Is Baring It All In ‘Ugly For A Reason’ Campaign

The latest campaign for Birkenstock—in collaboration with The New York Times’ T Brand Studios—is taking cues it appears from Adidas’ recent campaign when it comes to baring skin and highlighting body diversity.

Only, of course, instead of an array of bare breasts to sell sports bras, Birkenstock is showing us feet. Called “Ugly For A Reason,” Birkenstock’s campaign includes a three-part documentary, How Feet Made Us Human, on the NY Times site as well as their own which explores the evolution of our feet and how they are frequently put to the test through dancing, running and more. 

With the goal to highlight the importance of foot care and how the over two-centuries-old footwear brand has made it the heart of its mission to do that, the campaign seems to be part of a larger trend of shedding light on body parts that are frequently hidden and have, for some reason, carried the weight of a culture of shame. 

The response for Adidas’ “Support Is Everything” campaign has been especially polarizing, with many users taking offense to the images of breasts and causing quite a stir in the comment section. 

“​​So what’s next? Butts need support too! Men’s testicles don’t all hang the same way as well! Adidas bares all!” reads one reaction to the campaign, while a majority of the comments centered around the double standard of why its taboo to see breasts of one gender but not the other, or why Adidas still had to blur out nipples to meet Instagram’s community guidelines.

Are feet just as taboo? They are certainly not used to being in the limelight but (so far) not subject to the whims of Instagram censorship. But unpacking the so-called “ugliness” of the nature of our bodies is certainly a step forward.

Deloitte 2022 Sports Industry Outlook

By the end of 2021, most professional sports leagues and college athletics returned to a relative sense of normalcy with full seasons and live fans, at which time organizations needed to find fresh new revenue streams and ways to deeply connect with fans.

This year, new emerging areas are poised to diversify sports. According to Deloitte, the sports industry continues to see an influx of money from new sources, increased adoption of emerging technologies, shifting power dynamics in college sports and a greater focus on broader societal issues.

With the abundance of options, fragmentation and overload could become more significant near-term challenges but the fundamentals of sports will remain the same, with fan experiences at the center.  

Deloitte’s 2022 sports industry outlook explores how these trends could create new opportunities and challenges for everyone involved: sports organizations, leagues, owners, teams, players and fans.


Among the report’s key takeaways include:

  • The blending of the real and digital worlds accelerate, with growing markets for data capture and analytics, esports, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and immersive technologies.
  • Blockchain-enabled innovations have a chance to open entirely new markets and options for fans beyond simple collectibles.
  • College athletics will see some of its biggest changes ever as student-athletes exercise more self-determination.
  • Sports betting has entered the mainstream and companies will continue their relentless pursuit of new customers.

The Accelerated Merging Of The Physical And Virtual

As augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies further develop, sports gaming and betting platforms are trying to imbue the energy, immediacy and excitement of in-person experiences into the digital realm. Deloitte sees this blending accelerate next year as new AR applications for training, simulation and broadcasting increase as well as the deployment of 5G and its low-latency benefits grow.

For example, Deloitte and the USGA collaborated on an AR app to enhance the fan experience, with near-real-time shot tracking and 3D course models. AT&T and the WNBA launched the Game View app to visualize game statistics in AR. And the NHL, together with Verizon and Immersiv.io, is bringing together player- and puck-tracking, along with new ways to consume real-time statistics for a more interactive in-game experience.

Another major trend accelerating the creation of the “phygital” world is the rapid growth of sports-related NFTs. Deloitte Global predicts there will be more than $2 billion in sports-related NFT transactions in 2022. In addition, all the major leagues now have NFT partners—for example, the NBA and WNBA with Dapper Labs and their Top Shot platform. The NFL recently announced a partnership with Dapper Labs (NFL All Day) and the MLB is working with Candy Digital. Deloitte has also seen a rise in the popularity of fantasy sports games—like Sorare—that blend fantasy sports, NFTs and real-world soccer into a new way for fans to engage.

Strategic questions to consider:

  • What’s the long-term sustainability of the sports NFT market? What can be done to drive more demand and engage as many fans as possible?
  • Will AR move beyond simply fun and interesting fan experiences to something more pervasive and essential?
  • How will these technologies shape other notable emerging business areas, such as ticketing and sports betting?
  • What new sports experiences blending the physical and virtual, sport and esport, will emerge?

Moving Beyond NFTs

With the rising use of cryptocurrency and associated exchange platforms, Deloitte predicts a nexus will form around sports collectibles, ticketing, betting and gaming. But it’s important to note that crypto has been playing at the margins of the sports industry for a few years now. Not only have some players been paid in crypto but a few teams in the MLB, NBA and NHL are accepting it for season tickets and other merchandise.

In an effort to drum up greater brand awareness, legitimacy and customer acquisition, crypto players have been betting big on sports sponsorships. The crypto exchange FTX inked a five-year deal with MLB and bought the naming rights to the arena for the NBA’s Miami Heat. Coinbase partnered with the NBA and WNBA in the hopes of educating fans, and the Staples Center was recently renamed Crypto.com Arena.

In the next few years, Deloitte expects to see more experimentation in linking individual and season tickets to blockchains, at first with the bundling of tickets with NFTs to reward fans. In the future, with proper smart contract capabilities, fractional ownership of season tickets and suites and a reinvention of the ticket resale process could be viable. 

This activity could increase the use of dynamic ticket pricing and portions of ticket resales going back to teams or leagues, creating a new revenue source. Before this practice becomes widespread, Deloitte says standards should be established, robust consumer protections should be enacted, fans must be educated and compliance and tax implications should be considered.

Strategic questions to consider:

  • What ultimate role will crypto play in sports betting?
  • Will potential US regulation of the crypto market have a significant impact on its growing connections with sports?
  • Will we eventually see universal wallets that will work across sports so that fans can have a simple and easy user experience?

Shifting Powers In College Athletics

Several events of 2021 foreshadowed the dramatic power shifts set to unfold in college athletics over the next decade. As Deloitte notes, the NCAA expanded the one-time transfer exception to all Division I sports, which means student-athletes in more popular sports don’t have to sit out for a season if they transfer schools.

Next, some states passed legislation allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL), which prompted the NCAA to release interim policies so all student-athletes can take advantage of the opportunities that result. 

Finally, several schools announced they’d be changing athletic conferences over the next few years.

With student-athletes free to pursue financial opportunities across social and traditional media, ecosystems of agents, consultants and digital services are quickly being built to capitalize on the opportunity. Some athletes are seeing more than $1 million in opportunities for their NIL efforts. As the power between student-athletes and coaches shifts, Deloitte expects positive and negative consequences: potential recruiting advantages, changes in gender disparity, newfound attention to niche sports and more empowered student-athletes.

Strategic questions to consider:

  • Will federal action take place regarding NIL? Will these changes exacerbate or improve gender disparity issues in college athletics?
  • How will the proposed changes to the NCAA constitution, which gives more power to the divisions, impact these issues?
  • What will be the implications of these issues to smaller schools and the vitality of their sports programs?

A Tipping Point In The Sports Betting Market

Sports betting—which brought in about $1.5 billion in revenue in 2020—is legal and active in 29 states as of November 2021. As the activity continues to grow—it’s anticipated to reach $6 billion by 2023)—three major players are leading the way: DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel.

In a frenzy for customer acquisition, they’re shelling out big bucks on advertising and sponsorships to build brand awareness and expand their traditional base. But in doing so, Deloitte says they run the risk of overwhelming the nascent marketing or alienating fans. That’s why the NFL has limits on the number of TV spots they sell to sports betting companies and similarly, the NBA isn’t allowing sportsbooks to advertise on jerseys.

Deloitte sees this tipping point as an accelerant for market consolidation. In developing their infrastructure and portfolios, companies are seeking to acquire strategic technologies to bring in-house and expand their user base. 

They’re also looking to integrate fantasy sports, sports betting and iGaming. Case in point: Caesars Entertainment’s acquisition of William Hill for $4 billion, Bally’s merger with Gamesys Group for $2.7 billion and the failed merger of DraftKings and Entain for $20 billion.

Strategic questions to consider:

  • Will the sports betting spending boom on advertising convert to new customers and will it lead to sustainable growth?
  • How much regulatory and fan pushback will we see, especially with regard to underage gambling?
  • What innovations will we see as sports betting blends into the overall fan experience, including in-venue, broadcasting and streaming?
  • As the market consolidates, what common attributes will the most successful betting operators have?

Video Streaming Has Reached A Tipping Point—Here’s How Marketers Can Respond

Today’s media landscape is vast, with the volume of streaming content continuously expanding as over-the-top (OTT) platforms add more content. In the US as of February 2022, consumers had 817,000 unique video titles across traditional TV and streaming services to choose from—a jump from 646,000 in December 2019 according to Gracenote.

This breadth has overwhelmed audiences, resulting in a shift in how consumers engage with video content and altering TV viewing. Nielsen’s first State of Play report gives marketers insight into why the video streaming landscape has reached a tipping point and how they can deliver on streaming’s bright future.

The report highlights two critical takeaways from the shift in how consumers interact with video and content: one, streaming is here to stay, and two, amid the explosion of new platforms, services and channels, there’s no blueprint for companies to secure their long-term loyalty or their own business growth.

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • Consumers want the convenience of bundling (despite wanting to cut the cord from bundled cable not too long ago).
  • 93 percent of consumers plan to keep or increase their video streaming services.
  • 72 percent of consumers say “I love my user experience with video streaming services.”
  • Marketers will need to have audience-first mindsets and leverage TV and streaming-specific segments to ensure they’re reaching and engaging their desired audiences.
  • Buyers and sellers can tap into streaming-rich media planning tools to identify the incremental reach that streaming audiences bring to cross-platform campaigns to understand the full picture of who they are targeting.
  • Three factors will drive future success: content, convenience and cost.

Nielsen says media companies will need to understand consumer behavior and sentiment to deliver what audiences are looking for—and keep them engaged as their choices increase. The audience will steer the future of the streaming landscape, and the media industry can help consumers in their media journeys by leveraging data to ensure they never get lost along the way.

Here’s a breakdown of the 817,000 unique program titles across linear TV and streaming services, according to Nielsen:

  • Transactional VOD services (53 percent): A program example would be Yellowstone and platform examples would be Amazon, Apple TV and Google Play.
  • SVOD non-exclusively (41 percent): A program example would be Friends and platform examples include HBO Max and syndicated TV.
  • Free ad-supported VOD services (36 percent): A program example would be Revenge and a platform example would be The Roku Channel.
  • Linear TV non-exclusively (24 percent): A program example would be Blue Bloods, and examples include CBS and many OTT platforms.
  • Linear TV exclusively (16 percent): A program example would be Wheel of Fortune and a platform example would be ABC.
  • SVOD exclusively (15 percent): A program example would be Stranger Things and a platform example would be Netflix.

To meet consumer behavior, streaming-first mindsets have become table stakes for content creators and distributors, notes the report. In the fall of last year, more than 81 percent of US homes had at least one TV-connected device, up from 72 percent back in 2019. And late last year, Americans two and older spent 32 percent of their total TV time with TV-connected devices (68 percent with traditional TV). Among kids 2-17, the percentage was 64 percent.

Audiences are loving the growing expanse. Last year, Americans watched nearly 15 million years’ worth of streaming video content, and streaming providers are steadily increasing their share of consumers’ total TV time. In February of this year, content from streaming platforms accounted for just under 29 percent of consumers’ total time with TV, ahead of broadcast programming (26.4 percent) for the fourth straight month.

While the TV set is still the dominant device for reach, the phrase “watching TV” has evolved over time. Today, it offers consumers a way to engage with any and all content, including audio. As Nielsen found, smart TVs are as popular for streaming music as smart speakers.

Devices consumers use for their paid audio streaming services:

  • Smartphone (80 percent)
  • Smart speaker (41 percent)
  • Smart TV (41 percent)
  • Computer (39 percent)
  • Internet-connected device (37 percent)
  • Tablet (31 percent)
  • Connected car system (24 percent)

This growth and variety have inspired consumers to adopt more than two options as platforms emerge. Nielsen’s data shows the number of paid streaming services among paid video subscribers is:

  • One service: 18 percent in 2022 vs. 35 percent in 2019
  • Two services: 24 percent in 2022 vs. 33 percent in 2019
  • Three services: 23 percent in 2022 vs. 21 percent in 2019
  • Four services: 18 percent in 2022 vs. 8 percent in 2019
  • Five services: 10 perfect in 2022 vs. 3 percent in 2019
  • Six or more services: 7 percent in 2022 vs. none in 2019

Across age groups, consumers 35-49 spend the most money on streaming services, as 24 percent pay for five or more, Nielsen found. Consumers aren’t just replacing their traditional TV options with OTT options. In many cases, consumers continue adding to their media options when content appeals to them. Nielsen’s research shows they do this to a degree, largely because of cost: 56 percent of survey respondents say cost is the primary reason why they don’t subscribe to more services.

Nevertheless, the abundance of choices has survey respondents feeling overwhelmed. Nearly half (50 percent) say that the increase in options makes it hard to find what they’re looking for, which represents another consideration for marketers looking to acquire new customers.

This frustration has made 64 percent say they want streaming bundles, while only 9 percent disagree that there’s a need for bundled services.

Bundling traditional and streaming offerings, such as Xfinity and Apple TV, has become one solution to the industry’s growing awareness of consumers’ fatigue. Verizon plans to join soon as it announced its +play platform, which includes partnerships with Netflix, Peloton, Disney+ and other streamers. The service will allow customers to find, purchase and manage their go-to subscriptions at no extra cost.

But as Nielsen notes, bundling is just one way to help consumers find the content they’re looking for. Nielsen suggests applying hyper-detailed video descriptors to content catalogs as they crystalize the storylines and contextualize the essence of a show or movie. 

Says the report:

“This data enables nuanced discovery paths and offers fresh and relevant program recommendations that are aligned with a viewer’s individual tastes and viewing history. In the streaming realm, the video carousel is the storefront. Visitors aren’t logging in to read. They’re logging in for visual experiences. And that’s where personalized images can enhance a platform’s visual merchandising.”

Across the streaming landscape, streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) options remain the biggest appeal, but ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD), multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and virtual MVPDs (vMVPDs) accounted for a combined 36 percent of total streaming minutes between July and December 2021.

vMVPDs—which enable consumers to access an array of VOD streaming content—live broadcast programming and cable sources have become increasingly popular as consumers tap into digital channels to access new content options. Over the past three years, vMVPD adoption has grown from 7.1 percent of all TV households to 12.5 percent, with YouTube TV, Hulu+ Live, DirecTV Stream and Sling TV steering much of the growth.

Ad-supported streaming options are also attracting more diverse audiences than traditional TV and SVOD options. For example, Pluto TV, Paramount’s ad-supported video service owned, attracts about twice as many black viewers as traditional linear TV (36 percent vs. 17 percent), according to Nielsen. Similarly, black audiences account for 39 percent of Tubi’s viewership (Tubi is Fox’s ad-supported streamer).

Pandemic-Fueled Spending On Mobile Games Winds Down

According to the latest NPD Group US video game sales report, consumer spending on video game hardware, content and accessories fell to $4.4 billion in February 2022, a 6 percent decrease from the previous year. That’s compared to the two percent dip YOY in consumer spending NPD recorded for January. 

Hardware experienced the largest year-on-year (YOY) percentage decline and all major categories of video game spending were down. Year-to-date (YTD) spending decreased by four percent compared to the same period in 2021, totaling $9.1 billion.

Video Game Hardware

Compared to February 2021, video game hardware dollar sales dropped by 27 percent to $295 million. Amid the hardware market’s low supply issue, YTD dollar sales dropped to $685 million, a 5 percent decrease compared to the same period last year. 

Among the hardware platforms, Switch was the best-selling in February 2022, followed by Xbox Series. As for video game hardware, PlayStation 5 has been leading dollar sales YTD while Switch earned the highest unit sales in the same period, found NPD.

Premium Game Tracked Dollar Sales 

February 2022’s best-selling game was Elden Ring, which has also remained the best-selling game of the year so far. Additionally, launch month sales of the title were the second-highest for any tracked game released in the last 12 months – in the first place is Call of Duty: Vanguard, which launched in November of last year. 

At the end of its first month on the market, Elden Ring ranked as the fifth best-selling game of the 12-month period ending February 2022. The game ranked first on Steam and Xbox, and second on PlayStation in February.

Horizon II: Forbidden West was the second best-selling game and ranked first on PlayStation. The title’s dollar sales for PlayStation 5 set a new launch month record for the platform.

Debuting as part of the PC Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription services, Total War: Warhammer III launched as the fifth best-selling game of February 2022 and ranked as Steam’s second best-selling title.

Mobile Games

With a decrease of 2.5 percent and for the first time since the start of the pandemic, mobile game spending was down YOY in February, based on data provided by Sensor Tower.

This signals the pandemic-fueled spending spree in mobile titles is subsiding but Sensor Tower notes there has been a sizable influx of successful launches and new top-earning titles despite the overall reduction in sales.

The highest-earning mobile titles in the US for February 2022 were Candy Crush Saga, Roblox, Coin Master, Genshin Impact and Pokémon GO.

Video Game Accessories

At $180 million, spending on video game accessories dropped 7 percent as compared to the same period last year. YTD sales have also fallen to $365 million, an 11 percent reduction compared to the same period last year. 

The Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller was the best-selling accessory of February and of 2022 YTD.

FaZe Clan’s Rebrand From Esports Org To Youth Culture Brand

FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink spoke with Axios media reporter Sara Fischer about why the brand is more than just an esports organization—and why it’s uniquely positioned to reach Gen Z on their preferred platform.

FaZe Clan, which added Snoop Dogg to its board of directors just a week ago, is about to become the world’s first publicly traded esports organization.

But the description of esports organization is only part of legacy gaming brand’s twelve-year existence.

“We’re a youth culture brand, overall,” said Trink at Tuesday’s featured SXSW 2022 session, ‘Reimagining Media And Entertainment For Gen Z.’

Noting the overlap between gaming culture and Gen Z, Trink said, “at one point gaming lifestyle became synonymous with youth culture. I’d like to think we played an important part in that.”

Recent figures show that gaming is Gen Z’s preferred social platform, with brands reaching them through Roblox and Fortnite. Ninety percent of Gen Zers identify as gamers, making youth culture statistically synonymous with gamer culture.

While there’s an obvious reverence for competitive gaming and esports, Trink notes that it’s more about the creators than the competition. But it doesn’t hurt to be endemic to gaming culture.

“We’re currently champions of two of the most popular esports out there: Call of Duty and Counterstrike. We have 12 esports teams,” said Trink. “But the thing that’s surprising for some people is, while esports is vibrant and growing, it’s gaming as an entertainment platform that is more popular.”

The pandemic has only made gaming more popular with a valuation of the global gaming market at $198.4 billion in 2021 and projected $339.95 billion by 2027.

“In this world, in gaming—the Harlem Globetrotters are more popular than the Lakers,” said Trink. “We derive our massive fanbase and our cultural significance from the content creator-side.”

The bulk of FaZe Clan’s revenue, most through bluechip sponsors like McDonald’s, Nissan, and Beatz, is also diversifying into limited licensing arrangements like the X-Shot at Target and of course, apparel. But FaZe really has its sights set on CPG brands and partnering around events.

“The brand is a mature brand. The business is a […] recent business,” said Trink.

“We’ve been spending the last couple of years really introducing ourselves to the more traditional world, the less-tapped-in world—we’re a legacy brand in the gaming space.”