Yet another media company is entering the competitive eSports landscape. Minute Media recently raised another $15 million in growth capital, bringing total funding to $60 million, with a focus to expand beyond soccer and traditional sports. The company has launched DBLTAP.com to offer fans a platform to create content around eSports.
Minute Media, parent company of fan-driven sports media platforms 90min and 12up, has grown from 30 million monthly users to 70 million over the last 12 months. Launched in late 2011, Minute Media is the world’s fastest growing digital sports platform. Through its worldwide fan contribution platform, Minute Media delivers over 20,000 pieces of original, socially-driven and then curated editorial in 11 languages to users in more than 200 countries.
Duncan McMonagle, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Minute Media, explains what opportunities eSports opens up for brands in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.
How are you applying lessons learned from traditional sports like soccer and basketball to eSports?
We have learned that traditional journalism is increasingly shifting to citizen journalism, content consumption from legacy destinations to social platforms, that being informed and authentic is as important—if not more so—than simply being the first to report the news. We have built a platform that leverages these shifts and accelerates them in many ways. This has enabled us to carve out a unique brand of storytelling and helped us scale in two of the most saturated and toughest media markets imaginable: in global football (soccer) through 90min.com and US sports on 12up.com. It is an approach that is equally applicable to eSports as it is in traditional sports.
The eSports media landscape went from barren to saturated very quickly over the past few years. What are the challenges of finding an audience today as a new entrant to the space?
It depends on what sort of coverage you are providing. We are focussed on providing fan-centric content that surfaces what happens around the life. Whilst the competition for scheduling tournaments and the battle for streaming platforms has intensified, nobody has really centered on content that brings the event to life, or an experience which is the next best thing to being there for a fan. With an addressable and growing market of over 250 million eSports viewers, we think this offers a huge opportunity for finding existing and new audiences.
How will you differentiate your approach from Yahoo, ESPN, The Score, DoteSports and other media companies?
Everything we do comes down to the fan. Our proprietary CMS provides rich, interactive content templates that enables all fans to have a voice and generate discussion. You don’t need to be a journalist to create great content or be able to share your point-of-view on our platform. This enables us to create an authentic, informed opinion and scale across every team, game, genre and market where fans exist. We believe this approach, combined with the access to tournaments and talent that our partnerships with the likes of ESL, Dreamhack and teams such as Fnatic afford, will be a unique and very powerful combination.
What have you discovered about the type and length of content eSports fans are interested in across video and editorial today?
We have found that there is a huge appetite for short-form video content and interactive articles that include polls or opportunities to engage. Not everyone can or will sit through five hours of live broadcast, so we provide match highlights, Top Frags and Daily Round Ups and Best Of videos. Beyond the live-action, formats that get you closer to the teams and athletes to find out what they are really like, or day in the life formats with tournament organizers of team managers work well. In addition, fans love discussing topical news such as roster changes, heroes and villains—all the content that exists in other sports but isn’t currently well catered for in eSports.
What’s your rollout launch plan?
We plan to soft launch our platform from the start of Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice at the end of February. We’ll be testing further content and video formats, continue to learn and optimize the offering from community feedback, and follow this up with a number of key product rollouts between now and the end of May when we aim to make more of an official PR and marketing splash.
What’s your strategy in working with established eSports leagues?
To be authentic you need to be present. Working with the established leagues enables us to create our unique blend of arena floor reporting style that offers fans a different point-of-view, and a glimpse inside the world of eSports. It enables us to get close to the action, the teams, and the players, to ask the questions that fans most want answered, and in certain formats have the fans ask the questions themselves directly. It provides credibility to our platform and also creates valuable complementary content for the tournaments themselves.
What role will team and player sponsorships play for your company?
This isn’t something we’ve focused on as we hope to remain tournament/league/game/team/player agnostic in order to provide neutral unbiased coverage in our content. That said, we haven’t ruled out the idea of potentially creating our own team or tournaments if the opportunities arise, but it’s not a near-term focus.
What opportunities will your approach open up to marketers and sponsors?
DBLTAP enables brands and sponsors to interact and communicate directly with fans and gamers. We already co-create credible, authentic, on-the-ground storytelling and leverage engagement tools to get fans involved on 90min and 12up, and the same opportunity exists in eSports. The brands and marketers we have spoken with have all identified that eSports is already large but fragmented across games and audiences, and we will help them to come up with engagement programs that bridge multiple games and provide global scale
How will the latest round of $15 million help with this eSports expansion?
The latest round helps us expand the team and resources required to scale in eSports, to commit to certain strategic partnerships we have identified, and to help produce the best eSports destination for fans. It also affords us time to build a viable product and to scale faster into more markets.
What type of crossover do you see between the 12Up and 90min audiences and the eSports audience?
Our user surveys have shown that over 80 percent of our global sports audience are also avid gamers (playing over nine hours per week with friends) which fits with our demographic profile, so there is huge crossover potential from our 75 million monthly unique users. Many users are naturally focused on sports titles such as FIFA, Madden and PES however, so we’ll be looking to support the development of leagues and tournaments that focus on converting sports simulator gaming into professional eSports.
We’ve seen EA Sports aim for the broader competitive gaming space. Who’s your target audience?
We see there being two distinct audiences key to building a brand and scaling content in eSports. One is the existing eSports community for whom we aim to provide rich, engaging and entertaining content experiences. The second is active gamers that haven’t yet made the switch to mainstream professional eSports, and sports simulators definitely fit into this bracket. The reality is that there are many diverse audiences across eSports as a whole depending on the genre, game title, and country, which is why we will take a slightly different editorial approach for each where we need to be sensitive to the demographic or interests of the fans of those games.