Growing consumer engagement in esports and short-form video content caught the attention of industry experts attending the virtual BroadcastAsia event at the Asia Tech x Singapore conference.
Viewership for esports continued to surge despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Nicholas Khoo, chairman of the Singapore Cybersports and Online Gaming Association, said in a presentation that global esports events reached more than 430 million enthusiasts and occasional viewers in 2020. Khoo also talked about the huge growth of mobile esports in Southeast Asia as well as the emergence of China as the largest esports market in the world, with an estimated value of $385 million in 2020. Khoo expects esports to continue its growth trajectory in the region, especially with its upcoming debut as a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
As more investors and brands take interest in the growth of esports in the region, Russell Tan, La Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional's head of marketing for Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and Australia, emphasized the importance of also looking at opportunities within the gaming sector. When asked about the difference between esports and gaming during a panel discussion, Tan explained that esports primarily refers to professionally organized tournaments for professional players, whereas everything outside of that is considered gaming. According to Tan, the gaming sector offers a vast universe, with more than 1.1 million gaming titles being played across various platforms by a diverse group of highly engaged communities made up of amateur players.
Panelists agreed that brands looking to capitalize on the growing attention for esports in the region must find ways to integrate their expertise with a certain need within the industry to boost the ecosystem and build authentic fan engagement. Deutsche Post AG's deal to be the official logistics partner for ESL Gaming GmbH, the world's largest esports company, was cited as a successful example.
Telco operators have also emerged as important partners in growing the gaming ecosystem as they enable more payment infrastructures and better connectivity. Filippo Giachi, managing director for APAC at NTT DOCOMO INC.'s DOCOMO Digital, noted that direct-carrier billing agreements are popular among the segment of players who are both tech-savvy and high spenders. As a result, the games category has become one of the largest revenue contributors to mobile content and to the direct-carrier-billing industry.
Panelists were optimistic that the low latency offered by 5G technology will open more monetization opportunities for telecom providers in the esports space and help support growth for trends such as cloud gaming and other emerging technologies.
During the pandemic, viewers across the region also gravitated toward short-form content produced by users on online video-sharing platforms such as TikTok, Alphabet Inc.'s YouTube Shorts and Facebook Inc.'s Facebook Watch and Facebook Reels. Noble Partners founder and director Noble Binoy explained how the short length of videos on platforms such as TikTok tends to create more engagement and attract a wider base of users, which then enables the company to gain more usage data trends and develop a better personalization system. Lessons derived from engagement built by platforms such as TikTok have motivated more content creators to join and help fuel growth for short-form content viewing, Binoy said.
In addition, Octopus Newsroom APAC director Miro Rusko said trending content on these platforms becomes viral easily because audiences and digital communities view the videos as more relatable and authentic products. The platforms also provide content creators with tools to interact directly with viewers and to get more ideas on the type of content that will entertain their audiences.
Broadcasters and over-the-top players have embraced online social media platforms as complementary instead of viewing them as a threat. Some broadcasters from around the region have created live streams on Facebook Watch from marquee events such as awards shows to remain connected to their audiences while generating revenue from in-stream ads. OTT players have fashioned short-form videos from original content and streamed them on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube to help drive both existing and new users to their services. Justin Deimen, co-founder and group managing partner at Aurora Media Holdings, said that ad-based video-on-demand platforms turned increasingly to short-form lifestyle content to sustain inventory levels because it was the easiest form of content to produce during the pandemic.
Rajawali Televisi (RTV) Deputy CEO Kuen Wei Ho also said at the event that it is time that legacy media platforms start looking into properly syndicating user-generated short-form content into the main fold of the market, as this will help support a better monetization model to reward content creators and grow the industry.
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