Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
DICE 2014: MLG.tv Wants to be ESPN for eSports

Joshua Vanderwall | 7 Feb 2014 00:00
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MLG infographic

MLG.tv President and Co-Founder Mike Sepso stated simply "there is no Monday Night Football" in the eSports world, which is something he hopes to change.

If you're a connoisseur of eSports, you probably watch a lot of streaming, and it's probably on Twitch. Major League Gaming is hoping to change that fact with MLG.tv, which launched back in November. Instead of the shotgun approach of streaming for endless hours every day, MLG.tv is borrowing from the television model of regularly scheduled programs. While it loses out in the sense that there's not always something going on, like you've got with Twitch, it seems like a big win in terms of engagement with both the content and the advertisements.

Sepso cited 150 minutes as the magic number. That's how long MLG.tv viewers watch the content. That's an amazing amount of time by almost any standard. Additionally, you've got the completion rate for the video ads - that is, what percentage of viewers watch 30-second ad spot from start to finish - at 90% compared to an industry average of only 70% or thereabouts. This kind of engagement is great for advertisers, which means MLG.tv can command a higher price for ad spots, and earn more money with fewer viewers.

Why do you care about how much money MLG.tv can make? Because it benefits you and the personalities you care about in the eSports scene. If you consider that these guys can earn a living streaming for three or four hours a day on MLG.tv, as compared to 10+ hours a day on Twitch, it's easy to see that it frees them up for social activities, team building, and, of course, practicing for the next big event.

At his talk at DICE this year, Sepso also mentioned some basic tenants for success. "Personality, Predictability, Passion." MLG is trying hard to recruit the best personalities to stream on its platform. They've got predictability down with their television-styled broadcast schedule, with regular shows, streamers, and events at set times on set days of every week. Passion is not something Sepso lacks, and if you've ever seen an event winner smooching the hard-earned trophy or doing a fake jersey rip, you'll know there's no shortage of it among the competitors.

MLG is already kind of a big deal, showing 1500% growth over the last three years. It sees millions of viewers for the major events. Ultimately, it's already a very real thing in the industry. As Sepso put it, "it's a matter of when, not if" MLG will eventually take its place among the traditional spectator sports. That's not to say it's ever going to be something that everyone cares about, any more than traditional sports. Even the Super Bowl, which saw over 100 million viewers, only grabbed about 70% of those watching television at the time. Suffice to say, with the on-demand video capabilities of digital distribution, MLG.tv is poised to grow not only in their ability to captivate an audience, but to monetize that audience to the benefit of the players, the company, and eSports in general. Oh, in case you didn't know, MLG shelled out some $15 million last year alone in developing an infrastructure for competitive eSports. That ad money isn't just lining pockets (it does that too, don't get me wrong) it's actually furthering the entire concept of eSports.

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