As we’ve discussed before at Red Herring, esports is no flash in the pan. Millions turn out to watch its biggest events, and many more tune in to play and experience it online. Gaming demographics are not what they once were, either: players are more likely to be wealthy and college-educated than the average person. They are also less likely to be regular cable or terrestrial television viewers–meaning that a huge advertising market is waiting to be monetized.
Ahead of the curve is Dingit.tv, a platform for premium esports and gaming content. The London-based firm, founded in 2015, has become a leading destination for on-demand and live video content, which this February became part of the umbrella Level Up Media company.
Dingit.tv now boasts over 25m viewers, and is tooled with $2.2 million in venture capital–the most recent of which was a $700,000 angel investment round back in July 2015. As Adam Simmons, the company’s VP of content and marketing, tells Red Herring, the company is focused on growth on four different fronts.
When the company launched two years ago it concentrated on the live video market. Very quickly it developed a proprietary distribution technology which, alongside tech from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Akamai, rolled out “premium” content across the web “in a very efficient manner.
“Premium content is anything vetted by staff to make sure it’s entertaining, brand-savvy and good quality,” adds Simmons. Soon after its inception the company began adding video-on-demand (VOD) support, which focused on highlights of major gaming and esports action. By mid-2016, he adds, VOD was winning more viewers.
“That’s when we developed proprietary advertising and adtech,” says Simmons. “What that allowed us to do was to get in a very good commercial position. And so looking at the start of 2017, we founded Level Up Media to be the parent company of Dingit.tv, and it really allowed us to expand into other verticals within gaming and video itself–but also to be able to use our technology with third-party publishers as well.”
Today over half of Dingit.tv’s 50-plus staff are developers, many of whom are based in Poland. Creating IP in-house allows the firm to greatly increase fill-rate, “and the number of partners we can work with, ready to create a situation where we can make pre-roll video monetization effective and scalable,” Simmons adds.
Esports stands at a curious confluence of technology and broadcasting. Some traditional broadcasters have attempted to cash in on its young, engaged demographic. But few esports or gaming fans actually watch traditional broadcasters any more. And a massive market is opening up online.
Simmons likens it to the current viewership of the English Premier League, whose average global attendance per match is around 12m. “You have one set of fans who are prepared to go to the stadium and watch the game live,” he says. “You’ve got another set of fans who are watching every single Premier League game they can over the weekend. You’ve then got an even bigger group who will watch Match of the Day (Britain’s most watched highlights show).
“But the largest group is actually people who watch the sport highlights at the end of an evening news show, or clips on Facebook,” Simmons says. “And that’s really the group we’re targeting.”
Esports has 6m fans in the UK alone, for example. But there are around 30m gamers in the country–around half the entire British population. “Gamers are a very diverse crowd, in very much the same way as pop music versus everyone who likes music,” Simmons says. “We’re branching out the games we’re supporting to cater to those different demographics within gaming as a whole.”
Whereas the esports crowd was once confined to a handful of tier-one titles such as Counter Strike, League of Legends and StarCraft, the gaming market is now more title- and demographically-diverse. “An esports audience is only one part of the market,” says Simmons.
The firm has considerable competition in the shape of Twitch, which was recently acquired by Amazon, and big-name video streaming sites like Facebook and YouTube–both of which have been involved in negotiations to bring premium esports content to their massive online audiences.
In order to continue scaling up, Simmons believes Dingit.tv must fight them on four fronts. The first is to focus on technology, which it continues to do with the Polish development team that is pushing the limits of its proprietary adtech platform forward. Then there is making sure the right team is in place to process content and make sure it’s “high quality, brand safe and that it’s going to be enjoyable for our audiences.”
Content is king, he adds–and acquisition is key. Dingit.tv must make sure “we’re identifying new partners, getting license agreements in place with them, and really being able to scale that up.” Last but by no means less important is getting the advertising right. Countries’ ad markets wary wildly–as do their populations’ attitudes to esports and gaming. The lion’s share of Dingit.tv’s content is in English, with a smattering of French and German material. Local knowledge is still essential, however. “People don’t fully understand the opportunity and demographic” of esports, Simmons adds.
Execute on all four fronts, and maintain Dingit.tv’s commitment to the burgeoning world of premium VOD content, and it will surely become one of the market’s biggest players in the near future. “It’s a growing industry, and there are more budgets available to support the scene and tournaments,” says Simmons. “It’s gone from people’s bedrooms or small events to filling Wembley Stadium.”
Dingit.tv is aiming to win as many of those new, untapped fans as it can.