Earlier this year, sports media company Minute Media (which owns 12up and 90min) revealed that it was expanding into esports with its new platform DBLTAP. Its specialization is fan-focused video content that gives audiences an inside look at the players and what happens behind-the-scenes of major tournaments.
Although the platform is only a few months old, it has already gained immense traction by signing partnerships with the world’s leading esports organizations, including ESL, ELeague, DreamHack and Fnatic.
“We want to be the next best experience to actually attending an esports event in person,” Duncan McMonagle, senior vice president at Minute Media and general manager of esports, told AListDaily. “We’re very very focused on telling fan-centric stories, and being on the ground and present is key. We’re also very focused on storytelling. The tournaments do a wonderful job of organizing the events, streaming, and reporting on the live action, but what we found when looking into esports is a lack of storytelling in and around it.”
DBLTAP follows the lives of players so that fans may understand them better—answering questions like what it’s like to be in a player’s house, how these athletes got their starts and what they do in their spare time. According to McMonagle, DBLTAP generates this kind of content on a near daily basis from every event, including expos, where cosplayers are also interviewed.
McMonagle recognizes that companies like Activision, Red Bull and others are creating their own esports-related videos and documentaries featuring esports celebrities. However, he states that what sets DBLTAP apart from the rest is the near-daily stream of content.
“I think these documentaries sort of happen as one-offs,” said McMonagle. “One of the advantages DBLTAP has is our official partnerships with ESL, DreamHack and ELeague. We are following games like Counter-Strike all through the calendar year and all around the globe. Nobody else has made that commitment. Developers like Blizzard and tournaments like ESL will create their own programming, but there’s no one else that tells that narrative all through the year. That’s the commitment we’ve made. We know that no other publishers or content creators are making that commitment because we’re the only ones there every single week.”
As a result, McMonagle says that DBLTAP has developed close relationships with the teams and it is being recognized as part of the shows.
Additionally, McMonagle explained that DBLTAP works with its partners in two ways. First by taking the seeds of content that are provided at events to create highlight videos that feature DBLTAPS unique tone, and second by leveraging these partnerships for access to players so that they can be interviewed before and after matches or ahead of tournaments.
DBLTAP has taken players outside of the tournament space, and McMonagle said that once you remove the players from their “work mode,” that’s when they relax and their personalities start to show. For example, some players have been taken to shooting ranges to see how their skills translate into the real world.
“Getting these guys away from the day-to-day really helps us get them to open up, and the fans of these teams also benefit because they get to understand that player a little better,” said McMonagle. “In a way, I think DBLTAP is helping players and teams connect in a more meaningful way with their fans.”
There’s also a great deal of overlap between the traditional sports coverage that Minute Media usually deals with and esports. McMonagle explained that Minute Media learned about esports while doing research for Nike to create a football campaign on 90min. Nike wanted to know what football-obsessed fans were doing when they weren’t playing or watching the sport.
“We surveyed around 5,000 of our users and found out overwhelmingly (about 85 percent) that they were avid gamers, playing over five hours a week online with friends,” McMonagle recounted. “So, we knew that we had the audience for esports, and we knew that there was an enormous crossover opportunity for sports titles if they become more involved in esports. That’s something that excites us because we have over 80 million monthly uniques across 90min, DBLTAP and 12up, so this is a massive crossover opportunity. This is the same demographic. They’re broadly young males, and DBLTAP is a natural progression for us to engage with this kind of audience.”
As a result, DBLTAP has developed a range of content that engages with fans, sometimes through interactive widgets where viewers can participate in polls and quizzes. McMonagle said that the platform looks for topics that people want to discuss as they evolve, then gives its users the tools to speak their minds.
“We have a strategy of, ‘If you’re there, present, committed, authentic and creating content on a near daily basis, then you’ll grow an audience.’ That’s exactly what we’ve seen over the last month or so since we’ve been live,” said McMonagle. “The numbers of the platform are growing, and we’re already up to three-or-four million monthly uniques on DBLTAP alone. Our YouTube channel went from nothing to over 10,000 subscriptions in the space of four weeks, and we expect that to continue to grow to somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 by the end of the year.”
DBLTAP’s growth has been almost entirely organic. McMonagle reiterated that the key to making content that connects with esports fans is to be present (on-site and live), timely and informed so that you remain relevant. That, in turn, drives engagement and discussion. He also added that there is an appetite for differentiated and fun formats that take athletes out of the tournament context to show their true personalities.
Furthermore, DBLTAP’s Minute Media connections have enabled the platform to develop branded content for large global brands looking to engage with a male millennial demographic. They include Nike, Warner Bros., Paramount, Mastercard and PepsiCo.
McMonagle said that DBLTAP signed a deal with Mountain Dew to create a video series called “Doing It My Way,” which tells the personal stories of how these players became professional esports athletes.
Additionally, DBLTAP hosted a “King of the Day” event to help Warner Bros. promote the movie King Arthur at DreamHack tours in France, where the most improved player of the day was crowned on stage.
“We feel that brands like to work with us because we can credibly and authentically weave the messages and themes of their products into our existing editorial in subtle ways—ways that delight, entertain or otherwise have very a positive value exchange for the consumers and users on our platform,” said McMonagle.