On Aug. 23, ESL and BY Experience, in association with Fathom Events, is bringing the ESL One Counter-Strike: Global Offensive finals from the LANXESS arena in Cologne, Germany to cinema screens across the U.S. and around the globe to over 25 additional countries. While pros compete for a share of $250,000, fans can gather in theaters around the world and get a behind-the-scenes look at the action.
Julie Borchard-Young, head of By Experience, explains what’s in store for fans in this first live eSports endeavor for the company and why the theater experience is important for the entire eSports ecosystem in this exclusive interview.
What have you learned from the theatrical approach that Coke has taken with League of Legends since last year?
Coke seems to have taken a very focused approach by broadcasting their sponsored events in 10 or so markets and streaming straight feeds of the games, without any bonus content for cinema. BY Experience has taken quite a different approach, as we have scaled the eSports event on a global basis to over 30 countries and we broadcast the finals only, in the highest quality video and audio. In addition, we produce added value content that is inserted into the broadcasts, making each unique for cinema.
Fathom Entertainment is also bringing eSports to the big screen. What do you feel differentiates what By Experience is doing in this space?
BY Experience is distributing its eSports in Cinema to Fathom Events for certain theaters, and we congratulate them on securing additional eSports events for their screens. BY Experience is offering consumers a very unique experience that they can only get in theaters with not only the live games, but also the addition of behind-the-scenes bonus material that fans cannot get anywhere else.
What does the theater experience open up for eSports fans?
The big screen offers eSports fans an experience unlike any other, where fans can gather as a community to watch and enjoy their gaming experience in a shared experience. The in-theater screenings compliment and replicate the in-stadium Live venue experience, for a fraction of the price to travel and “be there” in person.
What did you learn from your first eSports experience and livestream staged with the premiere of the eSports film, All Work All Play
The All Work All Play event featured great content and was wonderfully executed. It was very challenging to get eSports fans and the gamers out to see a documentary about a sport they love so much. Our conclusion is the gamers want to see true eSports events, and nothing else?
What theater chains are you working with in the U.S. and what’s the global reach through theaters?
We are working with all major chains in the U.S., including National Amusements, AMC, and Marcus Theatres. The ESL BYE program is being distributed to over 25 countries worldwide.
How have you worked with ESL on this project?
ESL is our partner on this project. Both ESL and BY Experience are highly collaborative and our purpose is to deliver a unique and memorable cinematic experience for fans globally.
What’s the price of admission and what types of extras do gamers get by going to the theater experience?
The admission rages from $12.50 to $15, depending on the cinema. ESports fans receive an originally produced event, which entails eSports commentator from Soe “Soembie” Gschwind-Penksi exclusively for the cinemas and added-value content that is being captured from the first two days of the tournament.
Right now eSports is all about livestreaming and mostly on mobile or console/PCs. What role do you see theaters playing in this ecosystem moving forward?
It is difficult to predict where eSports in cinema will trend, as we all are trying to figure out what the most compelling offering for cinema screens will be for eSports fans, and how that will translate into the in-cinema environment.
What’s ByExperience’s background and how is that helping with eSports?
BY Experience has been at the forefront of delivering live “alternative content” for cinema screens, for the past decade. We have learned that fans — whether fans of theater, opera, radio shows, ballet, music or gaming — enjoy getting together in movie theaters to share in their common interests.
Why did you decide to get involved in eSports to begin with?
BY Experience has deep roots in alternative content programming in cinemas, including as worldwide distribution representative for the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series and National Theatre Live (outside the UK). We continue to blaze the trail with original, unique new genres of content and thought gaming would be a great fit for us and for our cinema clients.
How are you selecting events to focus on?
We look for unique experiences that we believe fans would enjoy, then research the ideas fully vetting them to determine if the event is ready for its big screen moment.
What’s the next event after ESL One?
We are going to evaluate the success of Counter-Strike and then make a determination on future events for eSports in Cinema. We are optimistic the fans want this new venture to succeed as much as we do.