The Esports industry has seen explosive growth in recent years as both viewership and revenue have skyrocketed. Gaming has always had a competitive side and thanks to technological developments and the power of the internet, it is now firmly positioned on the world stage within the live entertainment industry and now rightsholders are realising the need for Esports copyright protection.
In 2019, Esports revenues exceed 1 billion USD for the first time, which translated into a year on year growth of more than 26%. A recent report by Newzoo forecast the Esports market to continue rising in popularity, projecting revenues to reach 1.8 billion USD in 2022.
The history of Esports
Esports, in its most basic form was born in the late 1970’s where arcade games introduced scoreboards. Gamers competed to have their names appear on the top spot which kept them coming back for more.
The first competitive gaming event which offered a monetary prize was held at a tech-fair and was awarded to the player with the highest score. Due to the popularity of the competition such events started to become more common, and gaming networks began to emerge.
Developers organized these events primarily to promote their games, paying top gamers to compete for their brand in a bid to increase sales and generate awareness for their products. As technology and the internet developed, and computer ownership became more widespread gaming really began to take off.
Today, events are held frequently across the globe, usually (but not always) arranged by game developers. Where once such events were simply vehicles to promote their games, developers are now recognizing the potential for driving new revenue streams by monetizing such events through sponsorship packages, advertising opportunities and ticketing.
Currently these events are free to view online through social channels such as YouTube and Twitch, but this has the potential to change in time. As popularity continues to grow, so does the prospect of introducing subscription-based viewing, as is common with other live (particularly sporting) events.
Categories, titles, events, and players
Esports are split into four categories which are listed below, alongside the top titles:
- Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA) – League of Legends / Dota 2
- Shooters – Fortnite / Counter-Strike / Overwatch / Valorant
- Sports – FIFA / NBA 2K20
- Card games – Hearthstone / Magic: The Gathering
League of Legends (LOL) needs no introduction, as it remains the most popular title in Esports. This hugely popular multiplayer online game was created by Riot Games, who also organize the League of Legends World Championship Finals. In 2016 the final attracted a live global audience which exceeded 40 million viewers. In this event gamers competed for the 1 million USD winners’ cheque.
In October 2019 the same event was hosted in Paris, at the 50,000-seater AccorHotels Arena. The final peaked at 44 million concurrent worldwide viewers, and the competition attracted more than 100 million viewers, making this the largest Esports event in history.
Despite the popularity of the LOL World Championship, it surprisingly does not deliver the largest prize pool. In 2019 the prize pool stood at 2.2 million USD. The record for the highest prize pool sits with The International 2019 – the de facto Dota 2 world championship which in 2019 totalled a staggering 34.3 million USD.
So, who is the biggest player in Esports? Well, that title is held by a 23-year-old South Korean gamer named Lee Sang-hyeok, better known as Faker. In 2016 he became the first player to reach 1,000 kills in LOL Korea (LCK), and in 2019 he became the second player ever to reach 500 games in the same competition.
Faker plays for SKT T1 and is well known for his hyper aggressive play style, and is said to have a net worth of over 4 million USD.
Significant global audiences drive piracy, increasing the need for copyright protection
Even though these Esports events are free to view online for fans from around the world, pirates are still discovering ways to drive their own revenue streams by retransmitting live broadcasts.
The official broadcasts are monetized through sponsorships and advertisements, displaying brand logos and adverts throughout each event. Pirates retransmitting these broadcasts across various social channels are profiting from hosting videos on YouTube or Twitch (who pay fees based on the number of viewers), but they’re also replacing the official sponsors branding and advertising throughout the event with those of the companies who have paid them to do so.
These infringements are damaging viewership at a time when the Esports industry are focusing on boosting numbers to a level which would enable them to move to a subscription-based service. Sponsors and those advertising on legitimate streams also have cause for concern, as less consumers are viewing their branding through official channels, whilst losing visibility entirely across these illegal retransmissions. Now is the time for rightsholders and broadcasters to make piracy a priority and make Esports copyright protection a key part of their business strategy.
Technology – the driving force
Ironically, the very same technological advancements which gave life to the Esports industry also have the potential to limit its growth and cause significant damage to its revenue streams in the future.
Esports has only been broadcasted through traditional methods such as cable and satellite a handful of times over the past few years, and licensees have never had the exclusive rights, so publishers continue to air them across social channels. Esports are perfectly suited for streaming on the internet, however, international audiences and cross channel streams are making it harder and harder for OTT broadcasters to monitor and take down infringements, especially for the live events industry.
Today, Esports rightsholders are beginning to recognize piracy as a key issue and are taking the topic more seriously. If, and when these live streams move to a subscription service and demand for free pirate streams increases, so will the necessity to address this issue alongside Esports copyright protection providers. In the meantime, there is a significant and costly risk if piracy is left to grow, which would make tackling it a considerably greater issue to deal with from both a control and investment perspective.
Applying and contracting anti-piracy solutions now would help to increase viewership, improve relationships with sponsors and advertisers and perhaps even accelerate the move to a subscription-based model.
Smart protection monitoring and copyright protection
We recently monitored non-authorized illegal streaming across both social channels and websites for one of the largest Esports event organisers in the world.
We uncovered 386 different non-authorized channels which were broadcasting the event, across platforms including Twitch, Facebook, and YouTube. Some of these illicit streams attracted tens of thousands of viewers which would otherwise have been watching via the official streams.
We work with some of the biggest live broadcasters and with our support they have been able to recapture viewers, giving them full control of their live streams. As a result, we recently launched our Esports copyright protection service and now support one of the biggest rightsholder in the industry.
Our new service, protecting live Esports events from digital piracy
Our Smart Live Protection Esports and Gaming service aims to protect rightsholders, broadcasters, publishers, content creators and distributors in the live events and gaming industry from digital piracy in the form of copyright infringements.
We monitor the main distribution channels including Google, and social media, searching for unauthorized live and VOD Esports and gaming content. We eliminate infringements in real time on behalf of our clients, protecting content value and revenue streams.
We capture data pre-event (generally 30 minutes before the start), during the event, and up to 96 hours post event. A live channel is established during live event protection which allows our clients to report any doubts, concerns or issues that may arise during the protection, and responses are sent in real time. We also protect VOD content generated from the events.
As specialists in live event copyright protection, we offer tailor-made solutions that minimize the negative effect that online piracy has on your sales and reputation. Thanks to our technology platform, and our team of cybersecurity analysts we achieve an elimination rate of over 95% of all the illegal URLs detected. We are proud to protect more than 2,000 audio-visual content worldwide.
We have detected and removed over 72,000 videos of live sporting events that were illegally broadcasted on Facebook. A further 67,000 videos and posts we also eliminated from other social channels (YouTube, Twitch, Periscope, Instagram, and Blogger) in the past 18 months. Furthermore, on Twitter we have deleted 24,000 tweets that promoted unauthorized content or profiles that were illegally retransmitting sporting events.
Do you want to know if your Esport events are being pirated online?
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