Streaming Critical For eSports Betting Growth
Legal Sports Report

eSports Betting: The Revolution Will Be Livestreamed

Twitch
Livestreaming has played, and continues to play, an integral role in the explosion of eSports. Even as TV begins to offer more eSports media, eSports’ home remains on livestreaming platforms like Twitch, Azubu, and Hitbox.

In parallel, eSports betting, or forms of wagering on eSports that mimic traditional sports betting, is in its relative infancy.

Currently this form of betting still doesn’t resonate with key segments of competitive video game enthusiasts, e.g. they don’t understand it and/or don’t see an immediate reason to care. Meanwhile, gambling with “skins” is as popular as ever.

In order to effectively reach and build a customer base within competitive gaming demographics, online betting operators looking to expand into eSports must develop a creative content presence on major livestreaming platforms.

Content is king

While the betting industry is actively exploring the eSports opportunity, it’s already evident that triggers for betting on sports and eSports are quite different.

One thing is clear: attracting eSports enthusiasts to a betting site is not the same as getting a sports fan there. A nuanced view of engagement in eSports helps explain why:

  • Whereas traditional sports have evolved into a full-fledged commercial platform with built-in elements of fandom, competitive video game segments are structured as communities, marked by the unmistakable passion and enthusiasm of its members.
  • This dynamic creates a strong demand for a variety of related content. In turn, livestreaming platforms like Twitch.tv have risen to prominence by emerging as a broadcast platform for a wide array of video game content.

Over the last six months of 2015, 475.5 million hours of eSports content was consumed, which was 21.3% of the total content viewed on Twitch (see figure 1).

Newzoo_Esports_Hours_on_Twitch_per_Genre_

Figure 1 – Courtesy of Newzoo Twitch Tracker

A clearer picture

To clarify, these hours were not just broadcasts of competitive events (eSports). Instead the sum includes consumer-generated content related to gaming, e.g., users streaming their play of the game for others to watch.

The distribution varies across different game titles and speaks to a number of factors, including:

  • Size of game title’s player base
  • Overall popularity of the professional scene, and
  • The video game genre

For example, nearly ¾ of the content consumed for League of Legends (LoL), the world’s #1 eSport with over 67 million users playing per month, was user-generated.

However, LoL was still the overall leader in total number of eSports hours watched, due to sheer popularity:

Newzoo_Esports_Engagement_on_Twitch_per_Franchise

Figure 2 – Courtesy of Newzoo Twitch Tracker

Generating awareness key for betting

These numbers verify that livestreamed content generates a tremendous amount of attention from eSports and video game fans, alike; segments which represent an untapped number of potential betting customers.

So while betting relies heavily on the availability of tournaments and matches, generating awareness within these game communities involves leveraging the full range of content demand. Livestreaming creative content related to eSportsbook betting creates product exposure and awareness, in a format friendly to key customer demographics.

Aligns with a shift toward variety

Platforms like Twitch are already including more general purpose content such as art, music and poker. Creative content related to eSports betting can easily find a home there and potentially captive audience.

And since millennial heavy eSports crowds prove far less than friendly towards traditional forms of advertising than previous generations, content creation can offer better potential return on investment (ROI).

Marketing that’s creative and authentic

Essentially, traditional betting operators must learn to speak the language of eSports audiences.

What eSportsbook betting needs most are authentic touchpoints with the actual competitive community, something that livestreaming provides in spades. Livestreaming is an effective channel for integrating betting into the world of eSports. In the same way that streaming content remains a great marketing tool for the video game publishers, it can provide similar value for traditional betting operators.

In turn, the game titles will benefit from a new channel for engagementFor instance, it’s widely argued that popularity of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is driven in part by the CS:GO skins gambling contingent

Expanding the experience

Fortunately, there are built-in features of the eSports experience that can/should be leveraged by creative content.

The in-place community of user generated content means that barriers for entry in livestreaming are low, but the competition for attention is fierce. This places a premium on attracting and maintaining audiences with the right mix of tactics.

Since eSportsbook betting is still a relatively unknown territory, there is little to no streamed content on the topic. As a result, content will need to overlap with themes already familiar with eSports audiences.

Examples include: actual video game title content, Meta (game strategy), news/events. Interleaving betting into these topics provides a springboard for capturing attention and creating a better context for viewers.

Gaming and gambling: partners in success

In order for eSports betting to scale, it must evolve into an attractive feature of the overall competitive gaming experience. Unlike traditional sports betting, which exists largely independent of sports fandom, eSports betting must corral enthusiast segments in order to thrive. Therefore, livestreamed betting content must harmonize with eSports culture to avoid being widely ignored and/or jeered by the overall community.

Partnerships by betting operators and streaming outlets, aimed at aligning the two worlds, will help address the following:

  • Age and legal concerns – Betting is illegal for those under 18 in most places across the world; sports betting is illegal across most of the US and several other jurisdictions.
  • Categorization – How is betting content best classified on livestreaming platforms?
  • Technical integration – Opportunities to innovate around live data feeds within streams.

Ed. note: Alex authors eSports IQ, an outstanding eSports industry newsletter. Sign up for eSports IQ here.

Image credit: Lauren Elisabeth / Shutterstock.com

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Alex Fletcher
- Alex Fletcher is Founder & CEO at Entiva Group, an eSports strategic consulting firm committed to meeting the demands of companies that want to reach digitally-minded consumers. Based in the Washington DC area, he consults and advises with companies to ensure the best possible returns in the eSports industry.