CABSAT has got underway with its hosting of the UAE’s first ever B2B eSports conference – a two-day educational showcase serving a booming Gen Z-led market that experts predict will be worth as much as $2.5 billion by 2020. Key players from the full eSports content stream including broadcasters, advertising and marketing agencies, premium brands and game developers will visit CABSAT – taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Tuesday through Thursday – to discuss ways to cash in on this burgeoning, winning ticket.
Saeed Sharaf, Chief Executive Officer at Esports Middle East (ESME), kicked-off today’s event with a solo presentation addressing the “explosive growth” of eSports. He said: “eSports have grown far beyond individual players competing at home. The industry’s potential is fueled by live competitions which give way for spectatorship, brand sponsorship and athlete endorsements. This has opened up revenue streams in sectors that mirror the traditional sports industry, including venues, branding, marketing and, of course, broadcast and content creation.”
Looking to the future, he said: “Streaming rights will increase with Twitch, Facebook battling it out for exclusive content. Twenty-five per cent of revenues in 2021 will come from media rights, seeing an increase from the 17% in 2018, with influencers becoming the next generation of broadcasters. “Some of the biggest cities in the world are mulling over having stadiums dedicated to eSports. The industry will give rise to new jobs; we are already seeing the rise of mental coaches helping gamers prepare for the game, along with data researchers and AI performance software developers.”
Saeed added that while the rise of VR will elevate the industry, he urged brands – especially in the Middle East – to invest in the sports both through brand exposure and funds. eSports is the new face of competition and has created the next generation of professional “athletes”, the biggest of whom are already garnering the same superstar adoration as you would more commonly expect for the likes of Lionel Messi or LeBron James – and the sponsorship deals to go with it.
In the past two years there has been a marked shift in the industry, driving eSport gaming outside the confines of the internet and onto television screens. Audiences can now watch eSport tournaments live at gaming arenas, online through gaming broadcasters and, most recently, on commercial television – traditionally the most prized real estate of all.
Fernando Pereira, President of Grow uP eSports and organiser of the GIRLGAMER eSports Festival said: “eSports is an emerging industry filled with career opportunities for game commentators, game analysts, tournament referees, content producers, and so much more. Promoting education and awareness about its positive impact in the lives of young enthusiasts is at the heart of what we do best at Grow uP eSports. Shows such as CABSAT, that have a dedicated focus on the development of the eSports industry, helps explore the trends and market opportunities not just for professionals, but also for brands that want to enter the space and communicate with the youngest spectrum of their target audience more effectively.”
Huge conglomerates such as ESPN, ABC, Nielsen and more have signed deals to develop business models that mirror traditional sports. Most notably, Walt Disney Co. announced last year that it would be broadcasting live Overwatch tournaments, after an agreement with game developer Activision Blizzard. Meanwhile, viewership of the League of Legends World Championship has doubled year-on-year.
“Analysts are already suggesting that eSports are following in the footsteps of football and basketball in terms of broadcast potential,” said Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice President, Events & Exhibitions Management, Dubai World Trade Centre. “The eSports Pavilion at CABSAT 2019 is hosting the first B2B eSports conference in the UAE, providing unrivaled opportunities for leaders in all sectors of the industry to come together and usher in this new era.”
CABSAT’s eSports Pavilion will host more than 20 dedicated industry sessions across two days. Discussions on Tuesday ranged from tournament organisation and live event production to how best to build fanbases. Wednesday’s sessions will cover eSports governance, women and diversity in eSports, media and distribution of content, and monetizing events. From the moment content is created, to the second it is consumed, CABSAT’s 25th edition will guide the region’s industry through the next revolution in the Entertainment and Media industry.