Stefan Zant is managing director and COO of 7Sports, the sport business unit of ProSiebenSat.1 Group. He’s responsible for eSports within the ProSiebenSat.1 Group and aims to transform eSports from a niche product into a mainstream entertainment product.
eSports fits perfectly with our strategy since we can further extend our entertainment portfolio, create new formats and marketing areas and increase our digital reach with new target groups. We see eSports on one level with other sports that the ProSiebenSat.1 TV channels broadcast like American football, soccer or racing.
What are the main pillars of your strategy in this area?
We have created an eSports eco-system at ProSiebenSat.1, where we consider all possible aspects and cover many aspects of the eSports value chain. This includes broadcasting eSports content and events on TV as well as digital offers like eSports.com or ran.de. Therefore, we cooperate with national and international event organisers like ESL, Virtual Bundesliga (DFL), eLeague or OGN from South Korea. We will further extend our portfolio with several live events coming up this year. Beyond that, we will complement our ecosystem in 2019 with the organisation of co-owned eSports tournaments, the development of eSports leagues and the management of top eSports athletes and teams.
How important a part of the entertainment business do you believe eSports will become?
eSports is one of the fastest growing and most interesting growth areas in sports right now. Even though eSports is still a young phenomenon, it has enormous potential. At the moment, the market is developing very fast and by 2020 we expect 10 million eSports fans in Germany alone. With a view to the next 10 years, professionalisation of eSports associations and leagues as well as a stronger acceptance by society will become the most important drivers. As soon as eSports acquires a mainstream character, it can take its place right next to established traditional sports because it has everything that is needed to fascinate the masses. Emotions, tactics, skills, speed and a lot more. Being in an eSports stadium is as exciting as in any other traditional sports stadium, and as awareness of eSports increases, even those who have not much interest in gaming will also get enthusiastic about it.
What kind of innovative content and formats for TV can emerge from eSports?
Before inventing new innovative formats, it is absolutely necessary to build up a foundation for eSports coverage on TV. ProSiebenSat.1 is the only media company to broadcast free-to-air a weekly highlight magazine as well as over 20 live events per year with premium studio production in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As soon as those formats get critical recognition, new innovative content will emerge. Based on successful shows we have already invented in other entertainment categories, similar content around eSports could find its way into the TV repertoire. Creative concepts, for instance, might involve scouting new talents or allowing a broad mass audience to take a look behind the scenes with professional gamers. In addition to this, since eSports takes place in a digital environment, any new forms of technology from augmented to virtual reality will upgrade content and bring eSports to a new level.
What do media companies need to do to maximise the potential of the eSports opportunity?
In free TV we produce high quality content to address a broad audience, an additional target group beyond the core users on Twitch and YouTube. Therefore, we create formats that are distinguished from existing products. Our weekly eSports TV highlight magazine for instance is a prime example where we do not just broadcast eSports events one-to-one but aggregate relevant content, educate our viewers and tell stories around that content to bring eSports closer to a broad mass of people and reach new target audiences. In order to win new audiences, you need to educate them about the game and combine that with entertainment – we call it ‘edutainment’. In return, this approach will also help eSports to become mainstream and further drive fascination, since television remains the medium with the widest reach and highest impact. In the end, this will help all companies in the eSports ecosystem to grow to the next level.
Stefan Zant attended and spoke at Esports BAR Cannes last February. To know more about the events: https://www.the-esports-bar.com/en.html