9/21/2017

How eSports Leaders Are Making a Business Out of the Professional Gaming Market

eSports has become a massive, sprawling industry that's no longer restricted to die-hard video gaming fans, with events that claim to rival the Super Bowl in size and audience. 

Now that eSports is no longer an underground craze, everyone from professional sports leagues to major broadcast networks is looking to jump on the trend. At TechCrunch Disrupt on Wednesday, a panel of experts, including VVP's Stratton Sclavos, discussed how eSports is being monetized and the ways in which the industry is changing. 

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounds what a typical eSports athlete typically looks like. eSports athletes aren't sitting alone in their basement playing video games -- they have daily, rigorous training with team members, not that much unlike professional athletes, said Heather Garozzo, a former competitive Counter Strike player and marketing director for Team Dignitas, an eSports team owned by the Philadelphia 76ers. 

A typical day for an eSports athlete involves practicing for at least eight hours, reviewing and analyzing that gameplay footage, as well as a required hour of gym training, Garozzo said on Wednesday. The teams even have their own personalized chefs. 

eSports has long been considered a male-dominated industry, but even that is changing, Garozzo noted. About 7% of eSports fans were female in 2017, up from 5% two years ago, she noted. She's noticed that more and more male fans are bringing their girlfriends, moms, parents and kids along to eSports tournaments. 

"It's a very social thing too," Garozzo explained. "It's selling out massive arenas like the Staples Center, Madison Square Garden. It's an incredibly diverse audience now."

Brands and corporations have taken notice, too. Craig Barry, executive vice president and chief content officer for Time Warner's (TWX - Get Report) Turner Sports, the division of Turner Broadcasting that handles the sports broadcasts running on TBS, TNT, CNN and other channels. Turner Sports started broadcasting games from ELEAGUE, a professional sports league, last year.