Livestreaming companies Hitbox and Azubu, once competitors, have merged into a single platform. The companies have relaunched with a new brand, Smashcast, which is being billed as the world’s largest independent esports broadcaster outside Asia based on an active user peak of around 20 million in 2016. The company has officially gone live with hundreds of gaming enthusiast broadcasters and millions of active viewers at, which is the new recipient of all traffic from Hitbox and Azubu. A new Smashcast app is available for free download in the App Store and on Google Play.

Smashcast has also opened a new video content production studio in Vienna, Austria to create esports and competitive gaming content in-house. The company is creating content in 4K and in 360-degrees for virtual reality platforms.

Mike McGarvey, CEO of Smashcast, said that while advertising represents 70 percent of revenue for the company, with subscriptions and donations making up 15 percent, the plan is to use new products in affiliate marketing, interactive sponsor-based advertising, virtual goods sales, sponsorships and in-game betting to close the gap in ARPU between the nascent esports market and other, more traditional, professional sporting businesses around the world.

McGarvey talks about the company’s new brand and directives as it takes on mainstays like Twitch and YouTube Gaming in the competitive esports business.

Why did you decide to launch a new brand after growing audiences through Hitbox and Azubu?

It made the most sense to combine the resources of both companies into a singular, more focused entity. Esports is an industry that features a couple well-heeled competitors, particularly Twitch and YouTube Gaming, so having any amount of increased scale and efficiency can make a material difference.

What went into naming this new brand and how does it compare with the previous two platforms?

We ultimately felt that the Smashcast name best represented the direction in which we wanted to go in the worlds of competitive gaming and esports. By getting laser-focused on the broadcaster-to-viewer interaction loop, we might best carve out our unique place in this burgeoning industry. To us, it’s all about generating smash hits, as determined by our viewers in-stream, whether that hit content be generated at our new production studio or through our talented broadcast partners.

What role will esports play with

There remains a strong cultural tradition with Smashcast that has carried over from the former Hitbox and Azubu market positions. The difference, however slight it may appear at the outset, is that Azubu was hyper-focused on competing against Twitch and YouTube Gaming in esports while Hitbox was more interested in supporting the emergent tastes and interests of its varied global game communities. Hitbox showcased a wider breadth of category participation in competitive gaming vs. being solely focused on esports tournaments and teams. As a result, we’re now pursuing several unique opportunities, perhaps tangential to esports, that we’ll be announcing in the coming months.

How will you be marketing this platform to esports fans?

The vast majority of our multi-million user growth has been driven organically via our community apparatus and targeted content offerings. In the short term, we’ll primarily be focused on growing that channel, in contrast to paid ones, to test the efficacy of our recent investment in content development.

Are there specific leagues or teams you’re working with out of the gate?

We’re speaking with all the major players, leagues and teams in the industry across all territories. We have such a strong base of users in Europe, Eastern Europe, and across Latin America, that we’re looking for specific opportunities that leverage our community advantage in those regions.

What opportunities does this audience open up for sponsors?

We discovered that Hitbox’s deep commitment to community over the years has engendered a tremendous amount of goodwill that often results in engagement levels, on key titles and tournaments—up to 10x what one might expect on Twitch. With such a tight demographic composition of male millennials, we see a huge opportunity for sponsors to open up their reach to previously untested global regions.

What are some of the ways you’re learning from traditional sports through new marketing initiatives for these sponsors?

It’s no secret that esports has a ways to go in terms of catching up to the reach and distribution power of traditional sports industries which, from a foundational standpoint, are more adept at propagating multi-channel-based sponsorships, merchandizing and in-experience purchases. Our intent, from a monetization vantage point, is to first stimulate and build upon a hyper-engaged community—the selling into which is more likely to produce tangible results for our sponsors. So, ensuring that the right sponsorship is matched to the right event is a critical component of our strategy to build resonating community environments where sponsorships can flourish.

What’s your plan for in-house produced content in LA and Vienna and how that will drive viewership?

We’re investing first in a new content production studio in Vienna, which is just now coming online. With our strategy of focusing on unique and emerging opportunities, we felt the Vienna location would best serve our multi-language, multi-region approach to esports. Plans for a Los Angeles facility are in the works, but it’s not specifically our focus in the near term. We believe that the ability to better control the quality output to the Smashcast platform will result in higher engagement and retention metrics and, ultimately, increased rates of new viewer acquisition.

What do you see 360-degree content opening up for sponsors moving forward and how are you addressing that content on your platform?

We’re in the early stages of experimenting with 360 experiences in and around competitive gaming. We feel 360 has strong promise, particularly as it regards live tournament and event streaming, but not likely to be a key focus for us in the short-term. At the same time, Hitbox has always been a pioneer in the VR and 360 broadcasting space, so it remains an ongoing component of discussions with our sponsor partners.

What do you feel differentiates Smashcast from Twitch?

Ultimately, Twitch has become a large-market, large-audience broadcaster with a feature-set that caters to mass viewership. We see ourselves as being community and region-driven, where our focus is on building more intimate and engaging connections between great broadcasters and their viewers. In a sense, one might see bigger numbers at the moment on Twitch but often less engaged users. In some ways, it’s like the difference between braving the crowds, traffic etc. to see a Top 40 act in an arena environment vs. seeing your favorite local band in an intimate, more accessible setting.

How do you hope to attract fans away from Twitch, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube Gaming?

We’ll continue to focus on tightly knit communities around the world, while at the same time, growing those communities in innovative, low cost ways. We believe Twitch viewers will use the Smashcast platform to find unique and highly tailored content that is attractive to their particular interests at any given time. This might be analogous to fans of live music mixing up the types of shows they see based on their tastes and preferences at any given time.