Why B / R Gaming Is Investing In Linear And TV Gaming Content
Since launching in 2016, B / R Gaming, the gaming and esports arm of the popular sports website Bleacher Report, has operated largely independently. This year, with Bleacher starting to work more closely with other sports properties owned by Turner Broadcasting System, B / R Gaming has evolved accordingly. It absorbed ELeague, Turner’s dedicated esports brand, and invested in linear TV content – including a new show, “100 × 100,” which will air live on TBS and the B / R app. later this month.
Past attempts by major sports entertainment companies to enter esports have been mixed. ESPN Esports closed its doors at the end of 2020 after having operated for nearly five years despite having established itself as one of the main esports information sites; Bleacher Report’s own gaming subdivision, which was covered by Digiday for launch in 2016, has yet to reach its parent brand highs.
B / R Gaming‘s latest reinvention is different, said Jennifer Dill, vice president of esports at Turner Sports, because it involves an unprecedented level of collaboration between Turner’s sports and esports brands. “We’re really taking what B / R Gaming had done on a smaller scale, giving it the right resources and attention, and then letting ELeague also represent the competitive scene in a way that allows them to be awesome,” Dill said, “But really, the fact that B / R Gaming is the umbrella of these cultural elements together – that’s what I’m really talking about in terms of evolution.”
The heart of the initiative is the creation of linear television content anchored in the gaming and esports communities. Last year, B / R dipped its toes in this area with the show “Underrated,” which gives professional athletes the opportunity to improve their in-game scores in titles such as Madden NFL and FIFA. The first season of “Underrated” garnered over 18 million views across all platforms, leading B / R to produce a second season earlier this year – but it remains a digital debut, appearing first on the B / R application before the release of a modified version. on TBS. “It’s on both platforms, and they’re differentiated experiences,” Dill said.
“100 × 100” is B / R Gaming’s first linear content designed primarily for television audiences. The show, which will be hosted by esports personality Erin Ashley Simon and musician-turned-Twitch streamer Faheem “T-Pain” Najm, will pit celebrities, streamers and athletes against in-game challenges that will unlock prizes. for the live audience. Each 100-minute episode will give away 100 prizes – hence the name – and will run simultaneously on TBS and the B / R app, with the first episode scheduled for 10 p.m. EST on October 30.
“I would say ‘100 × 100’ is our brand statement,” said Richard Lopez, director of brand strategy for B / R Gaming. “This is our statement: that this show, when it airs, will encapsulate and bring to life what our brand stands for. “
B / R Gaming’s investment in TV content is further proof that linear broadcast companies are realizing the potential value of gaming and esports audiences, following The EW Scripps Co.’s announcement of a content-based partnership with the Misfits esports team last month. Some observers are wary of these investments, pointing out that the bulk of the gaming audience gravitates to streaming services like Twitch and YouTube – not linear TV – for its content correction. “I think most of the big talent and streamers that draw people to a lot of these events, or that kind of adding color commentary, a lot of these personalities exist mostly on streaming platforms,” said Matt Boyd. , vice president of esports and games at Nielsen.
B / R Gaming plans to avoid this roadblock using a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, he hopes to bring in some of the aforementioned streamers, including esports content creators such as Simon and popular Twitch figures such as FIFA streamer Mike LaBelle, to help his linear content attract. the Twitch audience. “This is just one of the immediate programs and content initiatives that I’m doing with Bleacher Report,” said Simon, “but since I’m already part of the B / R team, there’s going to be a lot more than I am going to do on the gaming front.
On the flip side, B / R Gaming is confident that the presence of traditional sports stars in its linear offerings will grab the attention of sports fans who are familiar with Bleacher Report but may not have sampled its in-game content. This is not an unreasonable assumption, given B / R Gaming’s emphasis on video game titles adjacent to sports and the athlete-to-twitch-streamer pipeline triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. “I don’t know a lot of people who watch [association] football and don’t play FIFA, and even vice versa, people who play FIFA a lot but have never tried to kick a soccer ball, ”said LaBelle. “Most people have done both at some point – there must be some kind of cross-pollination.”
Regardless of the success of B / R Gaming’s linear content, the evolution of the brand – and the resources Turner has devoted to it – indicates that traditional sports entertainment brands are still ready and willing to engage with the gaming audience. and esport despite the exit of leading players. like ESPN. With “100 × 100” and other new content on the horizon, Dill is confident that the revamped B / R Gaming will be able to capture the hearts and minds of both casual and hardcore gamers.
“We’re thinking about how we can use our rigs as a microphone to amplify the best parts of the game and really celebrate that,” Dill said. “Whether it’s showcasing under-represented communities or players you might not have seen, we want to show the best of the best. “