Pablo Monti: ‘Introducing esports on the pay TV market will be successful in the future’

Another of the panels that made up the agenda of Sportv Series Latin America, the first virtual event developed by Dataxis last October 6th, was titled ‘How to introduce the esports ‘boom’ in pay TV?’ The panel was starred by Damian Szafirsztein, Owner & Commercial Director at Gillette Infinity Esports Latam; Leonardo De Biase, Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bad Boy Leeroy (BBL); Pablo Monti, Head of Content for Gaming & Esports at TyC Sports; and Ignacio Estanga, Director of Content Partnerships, Latin America at Twitch.

‘Currently, on Twitch, we find that 39% of the audience we have cannot be reached through traditional TV. At the same time, 9% do not watch TV’, stated Estanga, and added that the purpose of Twitch lies in ‘targeting today’s audience, which is looking for other things when consuming content: it does not want to experience it so much, but to be part of that content’. In addition, when asked if gaming has managed to integrate itself into the pay TV environment, De Biase stated that ‘in 2019 we had a first movement, where TV was looking for digital and gaming and esports content as additional content for its programming . A very big problem that exists is that it is very difficult to have all the content of a tournament during a weekend for the programming grid of the TV. TV is buying this type of content more frequently, but we must bring back audiences that nowadays do not consume TV’.

Also, according to Szafirsztein, ‘it is a matter of time. Today, TV channels must enter the business, knowing that there is no guarantee of success, but they must do so because this is the content that new generations consume. The great challenge that TV channels have is to consider how to make this offer ‘seductive’ for young audiences. There is a great opportunity for TV channels’, he said. According to Monti’s point of view, ‘more than TV as a device, we are talking about TV as an industry. TV continues to be today a meeting place where, little by little, we are changing the way we consume content. The challenge for TV channels is to understand this and reinvent themselves. Introducing esports today on pay TV is a job that will be successful in the future ”, he highlighted.

Regarding the dynamics between esports and sponsors, De Biase expressed that ‘we are talking with brands, but no longer from the point of view of inviting them to enter esports or if they are considering them within their strategy. They are already doing it’, he reported. In turn, regarding the challenge of creating a linear esports channel, the executive said that ‘it is not something very easy, because a very large investment is needed, and an alignment with all publishers and players in the industry to have the best content. Today, I do not see that alignment that is needed’.

‘As a club that takes part in different leagues, I believe that the inclusion of esports should go hand in hand with the ‘trial and error’ system.  TV channels must start  to know the audience; and make a very strong link with digital platforms, even if the final destination is TV.  Channels must be encouraged to meet a new industry’, said Szafirsztein. Likewise, Monti reported that ‘for a long time it has been said that esports, as they are currently known, have no place on traditional linear TV for a matter of duration. What is being done on TV channels is making content available with experts on the matter. ( However, not all audiences that watch esports on TV are immersed in esports, with which it is possible to have someone on TV who can explain esports to those who do not know them’. The executive also reported that, on TyC Sports, weekly highlight programs of competitions with which the channel is associated are available. ‘There is something that is starting to be implemented, which is to start a broadcast on linear TV format, and to be encouraged to continue it on an OTT platform’, he explained. ‘With esports being such a digital native product, it is not so strange to ask the audience to continue watching  content digitally’.

Regarding whether the audience is willing to pay for esports content, Estanga explained that ‘one of the products that we have within Twitch is called ‘Twitch Turbo’, and it is a premium version. What we have noticed on Twitch is that people, regardless of the premium version or not, consume the content because it is a totally different experience. The premium experience is based on the fact that people can interact more. In addition, we focus on making all ads less intrusive and more interactive. The differential point that we make available on our premium content is based on the fact that people watch the B-side of the competitions’, he completed.

‘At the clubs level, the next big discussion we will face with publishers will focus on broadcasting rights’, said Szafirsztein. ‘In Latin America, League of Legends already has three TV channels involved (TV Azteca in Mexico, Sistema de Radio y Television in Colombia and Etcetera TV in Chile). Results have been very good. For the clubs economy, the development of TV channels will be very interesting’, he added. Likewise, in relation to introducing Twitch in the STBs of pay TV operators, Estanga said that ‘although the app can be installed on smart TVs, from a technical point of view it is totally possible to do so, but it may be strange. Any integration that is from the point of view of an OTT would have to analyze how the content is going to be approached and that the interaction continues to exist. But we always open the door to this possibility, and it is technically possible’, he completed.

In relation to the esports formats that are working in some pay TV ecosystem, Monti stated that ‘it changes a lot according to each region. Today, in Latin America, the LLA (Latin American League of Legends) is broadcast on three channels. The executive even reported that it is a case of success, since the Sistema Radio y Television Colombia channel is a FTA TV channel. ‘In Latin America we have a certain lack of competitions at the regional level in general. There is the LLA, which brings together eight teams, but, without taking it into account, they are all efforts made by each country. Although there are tournaments that include different countries, they are very few, and they last a short time’, added the executive.

‘Organizing an esports league is very expensive, because of all the technology that is involved. It is easier to have a football match with two teams in a stadium than an LLA competition’, said De Biase. ‘With the impact of the pandemic, costs are going down and audiences are doing better’, he said. In addition, he argued that the business offers many opportunities.