ESports are about to have a new home in New Zealand with the launch of a pop-up eSports channel on Sky.
Kicking off 13 August as part of the Sky Starter package, the dedicated channel will deliver Ginx eSports TV, an eSports TV network that’s already available in over 50 countries.
The three-month pop up will feature eSports tournaments together with news, lifestyle, documentary and presenter-led live shows filmed and produced at its London headquarters.
Ginx also offers recaps, and stories of the players, teams and the behind-the-scenes at events from across the globe.
It’s a step up from Sky’s previous plays in the eSports space, which has seen it broadcast Let’s Play Live eSports events held in the studio space tucked inside the SkyCity Sky Tower.
Speaking to NZ Marketing earlier this year, Let’s Play Live managing director John McRae said it's been incredibly lucky to have Sky TV as a partner through its growth period.
"...they do get a lot of stick but niche sports wouldn’t exist without them, it was the same for boxing, snooker, darts, and now eSports, they are a great partner to work with.”
And now, Sky TV director of strategy, George MacFarlane, says it will have even more content thanks to the dedicated channel.
“The worldwide eSports market is growing at a phenomenal rate and it is now at a stage where we think it makes sense for SKY to get involved. With medal events in the 2022 Asian Games and serious discussions happening to include eSports in the 2024 Summer Olympics, eSports will only continue to grow.”
MacFarlane's views are shared by McRae, who says while eSports is still fledgling in New Zealand, there is significant interest, and he’s ensuring that Kiwis aren’t left behind in the red-hot sector.
“ESports has been around at a grassroots level for a long time in New Zealand, our job was to provide a platform and give eSports access into a mainstream audience, there is no reason why it can’t be as big as it is overseas and continue to grow here in New Zealand.”
- McRae was the Media Visionary in StopPress/NZ Marketing's 2018 Media Hot List. See the full interview with him here.
Around the world, eSports revenue is experiencing 40 percent year-on-year growth, with a global viewing audience of around 385 million. In New Zealand, there are 1 million gaming participants.
And those participants aren’t just teenage boys living at home MacFarlane says. While participation is male-skewed, there’s also a substantial female base and it's hoped showing it to Sky customers will help people to better understand it and the scale of the eSports world – something not always achieved when people stumble across streamed content online.
With a growing audience, it’s an opportunity for brands not to miss and although Ginx will initially be ad-free, MacFarlane says it's keen to work with advertisers that would like to get involved.
"We think we have a role to play in getting it on our platform to help people experience eSports and understand it a bit better."
The channel's three-month longevity may also see a change as the pop-up infrastructure was used to get the channel up and see what a dedicated eSports channel will look like. MacFarlane hopes it will help it to establish a strategy for the long-term.
The pop-up, and potentially permanent, channel comes in the wake of a tough start to 2018 for Sky as it lost the Rugby World Cup Rights to Spark and TVNZ.
Its subscriber count was also down from 816,135 in December 2016 to 778,776 subscribers in 2017.
Facing competition from streaming services, earlier this year Sky dropped its entry-level price to $24.91 a month.
Last week NZ On Air’s released its latest media consumption report Where Are The Audiences 2018, showing total (net) SVOD reaches 62 percent of New Zealanders while TV (via pay TV platform) reaches 52 percent.