VIDEO GAMING

Game maker Activision Blizzard to bring live e-sports to Facebook

Trio of plans announced that will increase awareness of the e-sports world and hook viewers with specially formatted videos and smarter statistics

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 5:15pm

Video game maker Activision Blizzard wants to make e-sports mainstream by bringing video game competitions not to television, but to the world’s largest social media company.

The California-based company’s Media Networks unit announced this month a trio of plans intended to increase awareness of e-sports, hooking viewers with specially formatted videos and smarter statistics. Among the initiatives is live streaming competitions on Facebook, expanding beyond specialist online outlets such as MLG.tv and Twitch.

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By the end of the year, market researcher Newzoo estimates more than 1 billion will have heard of e-sports, which involves players battling in games such as League of Legends and Dota 2 for prizes reaching into the millions of dollars. But the firm said just 292 million people watch matches at least occasionally.

Closing the gap will be crucial to attracting advertisers, which eSports teams, organisers and companies such as Activision Blizzard expect to be a top source of income for the fledgling industry. That’s why the recent announcement came at the NewFronts online advertising convention in New York.

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Media network Turner and talent agency WME/IMG will begin broadcasting matches on TBS in the United States this month in hope of finding new fans, and others are looking to television as well. But Mike Sepso, senior vice-president of Activision Blizzard Media Networks, says his team will focus on Facebook, as video viewing there has skyrocketed.

“The size of the audience and the rapid pace of video consumption on Facebook has a lot of advertisers interested in it,” he says. “And it generates a lot of new users to our owned-and-operated platforms.”

He declines to say whether Activision Blizzard is among the media companies being paid by Facebook to use its live video tools. The first match broadcast is June 10.

The e-sports division marks the latest media venture to adopt a divide-and-conquer approach to online video.

A recently beefed-up video production team will produce different versions of highlights and commentary videos for different outlets, whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or YouTube. They’ll be tailored to fit each service’s requirements and its audience.

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“We may have to cover one story in seven or eight ways,” Sepso says, adding that viewers will find it easier to access short, more relevant clips faster.

Match broadcasts should get a new look in the coming weeks as Activision Blizzard rolls out a new tool that automatically analyses statistical databases and pops findings onto the screen.

If a player picks up a certain gun in Call of Duty, the software then would look into the archives to see how successful a killer he or she has been with that weapon over the past year based on data collected by game-makers and broadcasters. Directors may pluck or reject certain statistics based on relevance as well.

Such data mining is expected to produce fresh “storylines” that lead viewers to dive deeper into eSports, Sepso says.

Tribune News Service