Opportunities & Challenges of eSports on TV - Interview with 7Sports COO Stefan Zant

by Eyes & Ears of Europe

7Sports the sports business unit of ProSiebenSat.1, has been active in the eSports sector since 2016, including live broadcasts of international tournaments, the weekly magazine "ran eSports - Professional. Gaming. Magazine" on ProSieben MAXX and, most recently, the digital content on www.esports.com. A cooperation like the one with the eSports organizer DreamHack is intended to bring even more content to television and illustrates 7Sports' intention to make eSports known to the masses.

What opportunities and challenges does the eSports sector present for an innovative sports company like 7Sports? How can new viewers be inspired by the topic of eSports? How do the unusual sports tournaments have to be prepared so that amateurs can also follow? Eyes & Ears wanted to know more!

Stefan Zant, Managing Director and COO of 7Sports, answered questions from Eyes & Ears about the company's eSports activities.

Eyes & Ears of Europe

In addition to the TV magazine "ran eSports" and the digital content, what other plans does 7Sports have to establish eSports in Germany?

We believe in eSports and see it on the same level as other sports broadcast on ProSiebenSat.1 channels. That's why we at 7Sports have created an innovative eSports ecosystem that covers all relevant games and many aspects of the eSports value chain. This includes the broadcasting of eSports topics and events on television as well as digital services such as eSports.com or ran.de/esports. We also work with national and international organisers such as ESL, Virtual Bundesliga (DFL), eLeague and OGN from South Korea. We want to expand our portfolio this year with several live events. In addition, we will supplement our ecosystem in the course of the year by organising joint eSports tournaments, developing eSports leagues and managing top athletes and teams.

Has eSports arrived in the mainstream? Or are we still in a media niche?

eSports is one of the fastest-growing sports markets with a very attractive young target group. Of course, eSports as a whole has not yet reached a broad audience - but through TV we will also bring the topic closer to non-core users who are not on Twitch every day. The young male target group in particular is extremely interesting for media companies and associated advertising customers. Regular start times as well as uniform league structures and rankings are necessary in the long term to increase relevance. In our opinion, it will not be Olympic in the next five years - but we expect strong growth across all channels.

How can the target groups of eSports be connected with the target groups of linear television? 

By offering them a programme that not only appeals to hardcore gamers, but also presents eSports in a way that will appeal to other audiences. The weekly eSports magazine "ran eSports" on ProSieben MAXX does just that. As a kind of sports show, the magazine reports on the highlights of the week and, thanks to its editorial presentation, also picks up non-eSports experts on the latest developments, games and tournaments. In the form of studio productions with background stories, analyses and interviews with experts, it differs greatly from the usual content on YouTube and Twitch and thus offers added value that the consumer cannot get anywhere else. We achieve significant reach with this format, but still address core users who cannot watch all the events they are interested in in full length. They also benefit from the curating. In order to win a new audience, you first have to inform about the game (education) and combine it with entertainment - we call this "edutainment". In return, this approach will also help eSports find its way into the mainstream and further strengthen its fascination.

Eyes & Ears of Europe

How does the consumption of eSports services differ from the consumption of other sports programs?

Not even that much. Because sports, especially on Free TV, always has something to do with emotions, tactics, individual abilities, speed and much more. And the viewers prefer to see it live and on the big screen in the living room. The special thing about eSports is that it's a very young sport that comes out of the digital realm. Since the competitions do not only refer to well-known sports, but also to strategy and other games, eSports is certainly more in need of explanation than other sports. Nothing new for us! We have already shown with some sports that we can let them grow through TV and digital presence. Whether American football, drone races or mixed martial arts. And being in an eSports stadium is as exciting as being in any other classic sports stadium. As eSports becomes more widely known, we will also gain new audiences.

How does 7Sports manage to increase its audience and also to get new viewers excited about eSports?

Our eSports strategy underlines the general strategy of 7Sports: We want to pick up trends early and be present in new leagues right from the start. The potential is enormous. We expect ten million eSports fans in Germany alone by 2020. Compared to other sports, eSports is still a very young phenomenon that needs to be given sufficient space to find and establish itself. In Free TV, we produce high-quality content for the broad target group, an additional target group beyond the core users on Twitch and YouTube. We aggregate relevant content to inform our viewers and tell stories about it. The format development plays a decisive role: Before the invention of new innovative formats it is absolutely necessary to create a basis for eSports reporting on television. ProSiebenSat.1 is the only media company in Europe to broadcast a weekly highlight magazine on Free TV as well as over 20 live events per year with high-quality studio production in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As soon as these formats gain even greater recognition, new innovative content will emerge. Based on successful shows that we have already invented in other entertainment categories, similar content for eSports could find its way into the TV repertoire. Creative concepts can, for example, help to discover new talents or provide a glimpse behind the scenes of professional players. As eSports takes place in a digital environment, all new technologies from augmented to virtual reality will enhance the content and take eSports to a new level.

Many thanks to Stefan Zant for the exciting answers and the insight into the eSports activities of 7Sports!


This was the second part of the Eyes & Ears series on eSports.