Facebook Watch Turns To Creators As It Attracts New Shows

Facebook Watch may soon include creator content similar to YouTube, a move that would help ensure the platform’s competitiveness in digital video. In the meantime, Facebook’s social video platform continues to draw TV networks and motion picture studios hoping to reach young, digital consumers.

Despite only being a few months old, Facebook’s original programming channel is gaining traction with US consumers—especially teenagers who are otherwise leaving the site. According to Morgan Stanley, 40 percent of people using Watch on a daily basis are between the ages of 16-34. Unfortunately for Facebook, this happens to be the same age group leaving the social network in droves—two million of them, according to eMarketer predictions.

Facebook Watch is designed to compete with social networks like YouTube and Twitch that both offer live interaction during livestreams. Even Twitter is investing in live video content to keep users tuned in. During the fourth quarter, Twitter announced approximately 22 deals and streamed approximately 1,140 live events with 60 percent of those reaching a global audience.

Facebook is in a strong position to lure creators away from YouTube, which has changed or removed monetization options altogether for many users. The company hopes to offer ad revenue-sharing to online creators, a source told CNBC. Facebook’s ultimate goal, the source said, is to create a sustainable ad-supported video platform, where it won’t have to pay for the majority of content. The company invested $200 million in hundreds of shows for its new video platform, which can be accessed through a separate tab from the News Feed.

Entertainment awards offer the highest TV ad revenue of the year for many networks. So as traditional viewership declines, online streams help to keep consumers engaged. Case in point, The Golden Globes red carpet show was also streamed on Facebook Watch.

ABC aired “The Oscars: All Access” on Facebook Watch Sunday evening. The program included red carpet and backstage interviews. Fans were also able to request “digital autographs” from celebrities, as well. The companion stream also aired on social networks Twitter and YouTube Live, in addition to official websites.

Lionsgate is the latest to announce original programming for Facebook Watch. You Kiddin’ Me will be an unscripted series hosted by Kim Kardashian West that features children pranking their celebrity parents. Indie studio Big Beach TV has also announced a dark comedy, “Sorry For Your Loss” starring Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi). These programs join a growing roster of around 50 shows currently airing or announced for Facebook Watch.

Cutting Ad Slots, NBCUniversal Seeks To Modernize TV Advertising

Working on giving everyone what they want, OTT platforms have been offering fewer—or zero—ads to consumers and modern targeting options for brands. So far, everyone’s been winning—except for the TV networks losing out on viewers.

But NBCUniversal has a plan to plug the leaks. By the end of this fiscal year, the network, which owns and operates NBC, Telemundo, E! and numerous other channels, will cut the number of primetime hour ad slots by 20 percent and primetime ad time by 10 percent.

“There are more and more consumers, whether it’s from Hulu or the Netflixes or Amazons of the world, who are liberated via technology,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, to Variety. “TV networks would be crazy to believe that anything other than commercial overhaul was anything other than inevitable.”

Reducing ad clutter is just the tip of the iceberg for NBCUniversal’s modernization efforts. The network has also introduced a product it calls a “prime pod,” a 60-second ad break available to a maximum of two sponsors, offering advertisers the chance to air different ads that better align with the show’s mood and themes. Prioritizing scalability, Yaccarino promises that “prime pod” themes will be powered by artificial intelligence.

Other ad products NBCUniversal hopes to offer soon include displaying real-time commentary from advertisers, blurring the line between TV ad and Twitter account, and using its AI theme-detecting platform to play a brand’s ads during relevant sections of the programming itself.

These new ad products will focus on driving consumer recall, engagement and purchase conversion. “These are performance metrics that matter,” Yaccarino said, claiming many viewability metrics currently used by the industry don’t accurately reflect an ad’s effectiveness. “This is a whole sales effort to adopt a new vocabulary and conversation.”

Despite NBCUniversal’s efforts to push television toward a quality-over-quantity mindset for ads, the industry has generally been pushing in the opposite direction. According to Variety, TV networks have added more than 400,000 new ad slots over the past five years, and the average length of ad breaks rose by 3.9 percent in January alone.

Consoles Fueled Nearly $9B Worldwide Digital Game Sales In January

Gamers spent $8.9 billion on digital games and add-ons in January, an increase of 11 percent year over year. According to SuperData Research’s monthly digital game sales report, digital console sales grew a staggering 57 percent year over year thanks to some high-profile game launches.

A large release of triple-A titles including Destiny 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront II propelled digital console sales over last year. Call of Duty: WWII is still going strong compared to its predecessor, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Activision’s yearly Call of Duty installment maintained the number one spot on digital console revenue charts for January.

Mobile and Free-to-Play MMO segments continued to grow at 11 percent and one percent, respectively, SuperData reported. Social and Pay-to-Play MMO segments, however, continued to drop. Social game revenue dropped five percent and Pay-to-Play MMO income dropped nine percent in January.

Monster Releases

Dragon Ball FighterZ is the most successful fighting game digital console launch of all time. The hit title from Bandai Namco was the number six best-selling console game for the month of January, despite launching late in the month.

SuperData says that many factors attributed to the game’s success, but Dragon Ball‘s worldwide popularity was the primary reason. When Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite failed to deliver the team-based fighting game fans had come to expect from the franchise—including a number of graphical issues—a well-polished Dragon Ball FighterZ filled the void. As always, marketing played a major role in the game’s success, as well.

“Bandai Namco handled [Dragon Ball FighterZ] marketing to the western audience very well, leveraging Game Informer and E3 (winning several “Best of E3″ awards) to build hype months prior to the game’s release,” Reginald McKim, market analyst at SuperData told AListDaily.

Bandai Namco announced that over 2 million copies of Dragon Ball FighterZ had been shipped as of February 2.

Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World is traditionally a Japanese-heavy IP but found international success, reaching the number two spot for digital console sales in January—no small feat considering the game launched January 26.

SuperData estimates that Monster Hunter World and Dragon Ball FighterZ sold over 1.5 million digital console units last month.

Watch Out For Overwatch

Activision Blizzard’s breakout hit Overwatch held its number 10 spot for digital PC revenue. Combined additional content revenue across both platforms doubled year-over-year, SuperData noted. With over 15 million MAU in January, the game is in a strong position as Overwatch League (OWL) continues into March.

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft held its number seven spot on the PC list. Digital revenue for premium PC grew 24 percent last month overall.

Battling For Supremacy

The ultimate battle royale is taking place between Epic Games’ Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds as both titles compete in the popular genre. The two leading battle royale titles earned over $200 million in digital revenue from console and PC last month. While PUBG defended the number five spot for digital PC, Fornite: Battle Royale rose three spots in January to number five on the digital console charts.

Epic recently announced plans to abandon its MOBA Paragon in order to divert all resources to Fortnite, which hit record high engagement in January.

TV Ad Spend Grew In January Despite Digital Domination

Digital advertising revenue experienced double-digit growth in January, but TV held its own thanks to entertainment award shows like The Grammys.

The US ad market grew 10.8 percent in January 2018 compared to January 2017, according to a new report by Standard Media Index. Growth was driven by significant gains in National Television and digital platforms. Other ad mediums didn’t fare as well in January. Radio declined 6.1 percent, out of home went down 2.1 percent and print dropped 3 percent year over year.

It’s not surprising to hear that digital advertising is still on the rise, growing 16.8 percent year over year in January. Digital ad spend has been on a steady increase of around 12 percent since October. Social media saw the largest growth last month at 42 percent overall. Facebook and Twitter saw the most ad revenue growth in January at 55 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

National TV grew 7.1 percent year over year, with 11.1 percent growth in Cable and 2.7 percent in Broadcast. Scatter TV volume—ads purchased outside of Upfronts—saw a 50 percent increase over January 2017, thanks in part to the timing of entertainment award ceremonies. Several college football games and the annual Grammy Awards were both moved to January, which certainly helped. Standard Media Index notes that even without these events, underlying growth was still 5.3 percent.

The Grammys, excluding red carpet coverage, earned $61 Million in ad revenue for CBS, according to the report. This was 3.8 percent increase from last year. CBS reported a 40 percent increase in unique viewers of the show’s live stream over 2017. Despite 24 percent lower viewership overall, the cost of a 30-second spot increased 11.8 percent for the 2018 Grammys.

Riding high on public awareness of the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, the 75th Annual Golden Globes saw a 7.1 percent increase in ad revenue over last year, exceeding $32 million. A five percent drop in viewership didn’t stop a five percent increase in average cost for ad space.

“We see that even though audiences are falling, pricing for these major events continues to increase,” Standard Media Index CEO James Fennessy said alongside the findings. “We expect to see this trend continue as our research shows an impressive return for advertisers that support live programming. Premium video continues to be the powerhouse of ROAS and, given the fragmentation of audiences and safety issues on other mediums, this won’t change anytime soon.”

The automotive industry was the biggest ad spender on National TV last month, despite dropping three percent compared to January 2017. Insurance companies came in second in terms of spending and spent 22 percent more year over year. Rounding out the top five for National TV ad spending are Prescription Pharmaceuticals, Quick Service Restaurants and Food, Produce & Dairy with the largest spend in 2017. Standard Media Index predicts that advertising revenue for National TV will grow 1.6 percent in the first quarter, excluding the Winter Games.

Branded Video Engagement On Facebook Driven By Food And TV In 2017

Branded video engagements on Facebook increased by nearly a third in the last quarter, according to a new report by Shareablee. Ranging from do-it-yourself instructional videos to comedy, the findings show that even relatively new brands can drive engagement on the platform.

BuzzFeed, driven primarily by its Tasty brand, ranked as the top branded video creator on Facebook in 2017 with 11.6 million engagements. Turner ranked number two with 11.2 million engagements, per Shareablee.

The top 50 media companies generated more than 35,000 total branded videos on Facebook and 96 million branded video engagements in the fourth quarter of 2017—an increase of 29 percent year-over-year.

BuzzFeed, Turner and Group Nine Media (The Dodo, Thrillist, Seeker, NowThis) drove 33 percent of all views for branded content videos posted on Facebook by the top 50 US publishers. Tasty and Group Nine Media were both founded in 2016, illustrating how new brands can engage Facebook users on a massive scale.

TV networks attracted the highest increase in engagement, with a 79 percent jump year-over-year in the fourth quarter. Adult Swim ranked number one with 2.3 million video engagements, followed by Food Network with 1.6 million. Turner’s Adult Swim, Food Network, HGTV, MTV and ESPN were the top TV networks on Facebook.

“Branded video, published socially, is rapidly becoming one of the most important new advertising formats for marketers to reach and influence their customer,” said Tania Yuki Shareablee founder and CEO in a statement. “This is particularly true in a changing landscape when it comes to how content is prioritized on Facebook.”

Engagements are defined as reactions, shares and comments. The study did not mention how many branded videos were promoted through paid advertisements.

Facebook rolled out its big News Feed algorithm change last month that prioritizes friends and family. The move continues to whittle away organic reach for brands while rewarding those who create meaningful interactions.

Users spent 50 million fewer hours a day on Facebook after the latest News Feed change, the company reported. Time will tell how the change will impact branded videos on the platform, especially in terms of organic reach. Last year, Facebook delivered the best ROI across mobile devices alongside Google.

Tencent Backing Skydance Is A Case Study For Western Marketers

With the Chinese government’s clampdown on foreign investment on entertainment, Tencent’s investment into Skydance Media becomes a prominent deal. The conglomerate took a minority stake in the Western media brand, and the investment represents a broader strategic partnership that includes the opportunity for Tencent to co-finance films while marketing and distributing merchandise in China.

How Tencent Benefits

Although Tencent’s interest may be in growing the global reach of its film division, the company can also support TV, video game and VR projects with Skydance—like the brand’s Netflix exclusive, Altered Carbon, which premiered in February.

“Our strategy is to create content natively in one division that can cross over into one or both of the other divisions, giving fans multiple touchpoints in which to experience and interact with Skydance content,” Jesse Sisgold, president and COO for Skydance Media, told AListDaily.

Sisgold also said that Tencent will have the opportunity to partner on Skydance projects on a “first-look” basis, which may include the upcoming Mission Impossible: Fallout and the next Terminator film along with all-new projects.

Although the primary goal will be to develop content for global audiences, Sisgold said that Skydance is “very open-minded” in pursuing co-productions with Tencent that appeal mainly to the Chinese market. He added that a Chinese production would be the type of project where the “story and characters authentically call for production and key elements out of China.”

Newzoo market consultant Tom Wijman explains that Tencent benefits from the fact that Skydance owns the rights to popular franchises that include Star Trek, G.I. Joe, World War Z, Top Gun and others, contributing to nearly $5 billion in worldwide box office.

How Skydance Benefits

It’s not uncommon for popular Western franchises to have large followings in China, but Tencent’s marketing through its QQ and WeChat, the dominant Chinese social platforms, and its expertise of the market, may strengthen them even further.

“So much more is handled online in China than here,” said Sisgold, comparing the Chinese market with Western ones. “This allows an effective distributor in China to leverage large amounts of consumer data and habits, and as a result employ a more focused and efficient marketing conversation directly with the project’s likely consumer—versus the scorched earth approach that often occurs with billboards, TV commercials, etc., here.”

The partnership allows Skydance to leverage Tencent’s unmatched presence in the Asian market. Given Tencent’s online ticketing platforms, social messaging apps and online video platforms, the impact of its promotion “can be instant and massive,” according to Sisgold.

“If they really activate all relevant tools at their disposal, they can go beyond really anything we experience here for a fraction of the cost,” said Sisgold.

Affirming the importance of the Chinese market, Sisgold also said it’s important to have a local partner to be effective.

“Their well-established network and massive reach among online consumers combined with their fan base around game publishing and social media responds well to our tentpole, sci-fi adventure productions,” said Sisgold. “In addition, it has valuable know-how to publish, market, and distribute films in the Chinese market.”

In exchange for its distribution strength, Tencent is complemented by Skydance’s experience producing and financing feature films, according to Sisgold. But the relationship has the potential to extend past movies, since Skydance also produces video game and VR content, with a zombie-themed World War Z game expected to release later this year. The company released Archangel, its first entry into VR, last summer.

Given Tencent’s extensive investments in the gaming space, which is documented in the Discovery Channel’s film Game Vision, Skydance’s interactive titles could benefit greatly from the partnership. At the same time, Tencent can license IPs from Skydance for its upcoming games.

“Backing from Tencent means that any Skydance product is guaranteed to be featured on QQ and/or WeChat,” Wijman explained. “Any interactive game Skydance might publish definitely has the potential to be featured there as well.”

Advances In Stadium Technology Are Opening Doors For Marketers

When it comes to stadiums, marketers have historically been limited—think Jumbotron messaging with LED ribbons or static images.

But with floods of event-friendly technological innovations and 60-plus new major sports stadiums set to open between now and 2020 around the world, more brands have opportunities to build marketing strategies to reach fans through far more innovative ways.

First, there are brand activations that directly benefit consumers—including ways to use tech to sponsor seamless logistics to the purchasing process of getting to the venue, finding the shortest line, best food options, merchandise delivery to seats and live in-game updates around scores and stats.

 Josh Veilleux, vice president of global partnerships for AEG, which owns the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the 02 Arena in England, said that marketers have to look at what’s going to enhance the consumer’s experience.

“We want sponsorships and activations to improve the stadium experience for fans, but we don’t want it to overwhelm them,” Veilleux said. “If they can provide value to the fans in a genuine way that either saves them time, increases their knowledge of the sport or event while viewing or takes them into the action, they’ll be able to reach the fans in a meaningful way.”

While in-stadium marketing is traditionally the realm of major beverage, food, entertainment and sports brands, there are also opportunities for non-endemic companies.

Last month, Impact, an Illinois-based company in the business-process optimization sector, opened a branded restaurant, in the main concourse of Staples Center. As a sponsor, Impact is looking to use the comprehensive marketing partnership and multi-year agreement to build brand recognition with key decision makers in Southern California who frequent the iconic venue.

“The marketing value lies in the name recognition that Impact will receive in the Los Angeles market,” said Don Duvall, Impact’s vice president of business development. “It is better for our sales rep to walk into an account and have the client know who you are, and having our name on the restaurant will do that.”

For mass-consumption brands like Coca-Cola, which can easily represent at global events like the 2018 Winter Olympics, the fan experience in the venue is a very small part of their marketing strategy.

According to Ricardo Fort, VP of global sports partnerships for Coca-Cola, the brand benefits a lot more from sponsorships when it takes the message of what happens inside its venues and broadcasts it outward to as many people as possible. For example, the brand positions Coke Music TV to broadcast livestreams of music artists curated by the brand.

“We have marketing initiatives of how we serve consumers in stadiums, but in general, the vast majority of our efforts goes to whoever else is not there,” said Fort. “As a fan and as a marketer, it’s very interesting to see the capabilities. But things like VR and AR, things that can be experienced outside of the venue, are more meaningful for us than how we pay or get served inside of a venue.”

Although having a fan’s favorite player or celebrity usher them to their seat through a hologram may be cool, Cara Vanderhook, vice president of marketing and communications for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater, prefers more old-school marketing strategies. She said activations that resonate most with consumers are the ones where fans walk away with something tangible. In return, the advertiser gets more eyes on their brand as guests travel throughout the event with a physical item.

Vanderhook said these opportunities can overwhelm some. “It requires advertisers taking the time to get creative and determine the best way to push that information to consumers,” she said. “With the proper research and technology, it can be effective.”

Robert Vartan, who oversees corporate partnership sales and development for the MLS franchise Los Angeles Galaxy, said the evolving stadium experience for fans varies by property, but holistically should provide marketers with more customized and unique touchpoints to communicate their marque, mission, tagline and products.

“Any opportunity to align with a positive, lasting emotion is an invaluable asset to any sports and entertainment marketer,” said Vartan. “The future is not telling the fan how the brand will serve them—but actually showing them.”

For marketers, it’s ultimately important to know when to be reactive to an audience or proactively push beyond fans’ expectations.

“Auditing every aspect of your game-day and event-day experience is the first key,” said Vartan. “Becoming your own secret shopper and immersing in the everyday fan’s perspective will provide great results and insight.”

‘Tomb Raider’ Continues Warner Bros. Embrace Of Virtual Reality Marketing

Warner Bros has released a VR tie-in experience for the upcoming Tomb Raider film called “Lara’s Escape.” The free VR experience debuted Tuesday for Oculus Rift and continues Warner Bros.’ ongoing trend of using VR to promote its theatrical releases.

In terms of movie marketing, Warner Bros. has been an active player in the VR space, offering tie-ins for films including Suicide Squad, Justice League, Blade Runner 2049 and IT. The studio is also tapping into the growing escape room market with a branded experience at Escape Hotel Los Angeles February 22 to March 24—that experience, in partnership with IMAX, will drop guests into a tomb in which they must escape in the time allotted.

The upcoming film is loosely based on the 2013 reboot of the popular video game franchise, in which Lara Croft embarks on her first adventure. Croft’s backstory has changed several times over the history of the video game series since its first title launched in 1996, so fans shouldn’t be surprised if it changes once again for the movie.

Warner Bros. Tomb Raider movie marketing is banking on the popularity of Square Enix’s iconic character as well as the star power of Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). Lara Croft—Tomb Raider’s titular character—is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recognized video game character.

Tomb Raider movie marketing kicked off full swing in January with #TombRaiderTuesday—releasing new teasers and announcements each Tuesday until the movie premieres on March 16. Previous posts have included interviews with actress Alicia Vikander and inviting Instagram followers to vote for their favorite Lara Croft weapon.

“Tomb Raider: Lara’s Escape” challenges users to survive a trap-filled tomb armed with only a bow and climbing axe. The trailer offers a brief glimpse of using Lara’s bow to slide down a rope. In the style of an escape room, users embody Lara Croft as they explore the tomb with a flashlight, then use their limited tools to climb out.

At least Warner Bros. has brand recognition on their side, riding high on the game’s 20th anniversary. The studio has a reputation to uphold, however. Despite its campiness and mixed ratings, the original 2001 Tomb Raider film starring Angelina Jolie is still the top-grossing video game movie in the US.

PlayStation’s ‘Opera’ Campaign Conjures Emotion For PS4 Pro Graphics

Launching Thursday, PlayStation’s “Opera” campaign describes the experience of playing video games on PS4 Pro through the use of opera, lending itself to a TV spot as well as other activations.

Since 4K graphics have to be seen first-hand to understand the difference—and not everyone who sees the ad will have a 4K TV—PlayStation decided to have some fun describing the experience instead.

The spot opens on a man playing video games on his PS4 Pro. As his face reflects the wonder in what he’s experiencing, we hear opera singer Adelmo Guidarelli‘s bass-baritone voice describe it to the tune of “Largo al factotum,” more commonly known as “Figaro.”

“PS4 Pro, dynamic 4K,” Guidarelli sings over footage of God of War, Far Cry 5, Monster Hunter: World, and MLB The Show 18. “So beautiful, can’t look away.” As the song reaches its crescendo, the gamer is surprised to realize that the opera singer is singing in the player’s living room.

“We thought that the contrast between opera singing, which is typically quite serious, and gaming, which is creative and fun, made for a hilarious moment where the gamer and the singer meet in a normal living room,” Mary Yee, VP of marketing for PlayStation told AListDaily. “We also liked the contrast of the big theatrical vibe of the opera singing and the everyday hero who is our gamer [and] we thought the irreverent script was a fun way to tell an otherwise rather technical story about PS4 Pro screen resolution.”

“Opera” is considered part of PlayStation’s ongoing “Greatness Awaits” campaign—highlighting the emotions associated with gaming rather than focusing on gameplay alone. Yee says PlayStation’s marketing strategy is rooted in that emotional connection, as it taps into how passionate gamers can be.

“We try to tell compelling and relatable human stories in all that we do,” said Yee. “As marketers, we strive to make content and stories in service of our audience and fans.”

Though PlayStation’s marketing team thought the “Opera” campaign would be fun, the entertainment brand doesn’t choose its campaign strategies lightly.

“We are constantly testing and measuring our marketing campaigns,” Yee said. “We use gamer feedback as a key input. That said, we also hold ourselves accountable to our brand belief and core tenets of the PlayStation brand.”

Yee describes that brand belief as “Great play can inspire us to be our most creative, ambitious and extraordinary selves.”

PlayStation often employs visuals to simulate emotional experiences while playing video games. The brand’s recent PSVR campaign called “Feel Them All,” for example, employs imagery like a beating heart, goosebumps and a dilating iris to illustrate “feeling” a video game rather than just playing it.

EA Commissioner Explains Rise of FIFA Esports

This weekend, the best FIFA 17 players from around the globe are in Berlin competing for a piece of the $400,000 cash prize, including $160,000 first place purse. Over six million players competed in the FIFA FUT Champions Weekend League since the launch of FIFA 17, to secure one of the 192 live qualifications for the Season 1 and Season 2 Regional Finals. After six regional events, the top 32 players flew to Germany to crown a champion in the inaugural FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series. Overall, $1.3 million will have been awarded through this series by this weekend.

The competition has been broadcast on YouTubeTwitch and Facebook, but the Finals will be broadcast across top sports networks around the world including ESPN, BT Sport, Movistar, MTG, and SPORT1, bringing competitive FIFA to more than 70 countries and millions of living rooms around the world. In the U.S., ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes will air the competition live on May 20 at 11 am EST. ESPN2 will air an exclusive pregame show at 10:30 am EST.

Brent Koning, FIFA Competitive Gaming Commissioner, told AListDaily that this new competition is the evolution of EA Sports’ FIFA franchise as an esport.

“Competitive FIFA has existed years before the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series was created, but it was very fragmented with concurrent tournaments, multiple winners, rule differences between tournaments,” Koning explained. “With the EA Competitive Gaming Division, along with the valuable support of FIFA, we’ve been able to consolidate tournaments, optimize the organizational structure and cultivate rapid growth. Competitive FIFA today is now mainstream entertainment – we’re talking millions of competitors, millions of spectators, mainstream sports broadcasts and more. It is amazing.”

Koning added that the ultimate goal for this competition was to move competitive FIFA into the mainstream across the globe. The FIFA Ultimate Team Championship will be watchable on mainstream sports broadcasts in roughly 70 percent of the FIFA player base’s home markets.

“We’re attracting not only millions of players, but millions of spectators as well,” Koning said. “To make competitive FIFA mainstream, you must capture a large, casual fan base who are already familiar with the sport of soccer’s rule sets. The best way to do this is to bring competitive FIFA to top-tier sports television – ESPN, BT Sport and more. We’re accomplishing this with the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship.”

More than six million players have competed in FUT Champions and thousands have played in the live events to get down to the top 32 video gamers. Konig said this inaugural series has taught him that community is king.

“They have been very supportive of competitive FIFA, and we are always looking for better ways to integrate content, showcase players, and make competitive FIFA more fun to watch and play,” Koning said.

Koning said the upcoming season of competitive FIFA will add brands and sponsors to the competition.

“With the goal of making stars of all of our players, we know we need to give them opportunities to compete, and that happens when you bring endemic and non-endemic brands into the fold,” Koning said. “Our goal is to make sure that we maintain a high level of competition, production quality, and create enough opportunity to support aspiring pros, our current pros, and drive the eco-system forward into the future.”

While the majority of esports games appeal to a global audience, FIFA crosses over with mainstream soccer (or football) fans worldwide. It’s easy to follow, and translates well to television broadcasts.

The extensive history of FIFA esports, coupled with the learnings of the EA Competitive Gaming Division with other titles, has helped in building out this new competitive series.

“Sharing best practices is important for any new team, be it at a large company like EA or a startup,” Koning explained. “I work with the central teams and other Commissioners at EA (for Madden and Battlefield) to make sure we are learning from each other, sharing successes and locating areas for improvement. We are lucky at EA to have a dedicated central team focused on implementing best practices across teams who speak to each other regularly. I don’t think you have the opportunity for collaboration as easily accessible in most companies.”

EA also has a longstanding relationship with FIFA. Koning said that organization sees the importance of esports and competitive gaming in soccer culture and it allows EA to work together with FIFA towards the common goal of spreading the love of soccer and competition worldwide.

Established soccer clubs like Manchester City, West Ham United and VFL Wolfsburg have invested in FIFA esports players, while Valencia launched a Rocket League team and Schalke bought a League of Legends roster.

“The level of integration varies by club, but is undoubtedly a way for them to engage with a younger, digitally-native demographic in a clean and low barrier of entry way,” Koning said. “At the end of the day, you put a ball in a net. That is universal.”