Monday, 26 March 2018 00:18

OVO signs exclusive Australian Esports League deal, creates new esports channel

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OVO Mobile, the MVNO that says it is "reinventing the traditional telecommunications model" with an innovative data-free content platform, expects 1 million 18-25 y/o Australians to flock to its new esports channel.

Matt Jones, the successfully ambitious OVO Mobile telco chief executive who clearly likes a challenge, not only loving his sport, but his esports, too, said: "Esports is the future of sport, and traditional sport broadcasters who ignore that are in immediate danger of becoming irrelevant to kids and millennials".

The company thus reports that "The Australian Esports League (AEL) has chosen OVO Mobile as its exclusive broadcast partner for the next five years".

What does this mean? It means "a dedicated esports channel on OVOPlay will start streaming content from Easter Monday, beginning with the first episode of the newly-created AEL University Cup".

"Starting with Dota 2, CS:GO and Rocket League competitions, the AEL University Cup will feature intense competition fought between a number of teams from universities across Australia in the first ten weeks of competition.

"Currently there are 28 universities that have student led esports or competitive gaming clubs, which the AEL University Cup intends to bring together to improve prospects for passionate students interested in developing their esports career.

"In this first year, OVO will offer more than 140 hours of exclusive content with expert commentary and analysis produced by AEL, reaching an expected audience of 1,000,000 Australians over the first year."

We're told that on 2016, "PwC predicted global revenues of esports would reach US$1 billion by 2019, and continue the trend of doubling every two years after that. The global audience of esports was estimated by NewZoo in 2017 to be 162 million, with 106 countries featuring an active esports industry, and 27 countries recognising esports as an official sport according to AESA.

"The deal represents an extension for OVO beyond traditional grass roots and other sports that are underrepresented in mainstream TV broadcasting, into the lucrative and rapidly-escalating esports arena."

Jones said: "It was inevitable that OVO would move into the esports space. We're about creating a home for unique content for fans of specific sports and entertainment, and esports has one of the fastest-growing fan bases in the world.

"There are three key reasons why AEL is a great fit for OVO.

"One, esports has a massive fan base but isn't covered or even understood by traditional broadcasters.

"Two, it's viewers are also participants, who are tuning in religiously not only for entertainment, but also to learn how to improve their own performance.

"And three, with the AEL University Cup, we are supporting the grass roots who will go on to represent Australia internationally.

"AESA has put the Australian esports fan base at more than 1.5 million people. That's bigger than swimming and netball. If traditional sport broadcasters are wondering where their 18 to 25 year old audiences are, I can tell you: they're over here," Jones continued.

OVO, which proudly boasts that it "built its mobile telco business around its unique fan-focused sport and entertainment broadcast content platform OVOPlay," says its extension into esports "represents another way to attract hard-to-reach youth and millennial audiences".

Jones irrepressibly and enthusiastically continued: "The largest segment of OVO's customers is aged between 10 and 25. They, and their parents, are the main users of our most subscribed prepaid mobile products. These include our $9.95 Mini plan designed for tweens and teens, and our $69.95/30 day 100GB mobile data plan that has proven extremely popular among millennials who are renting, consume much more data on the move, and own mobile phones and laptops instead of TVs.

"With every new sport we bring to OVOPlay, and especially with our move into esports, OVO is defining grass roots broadcasting. We're reaching communities where their interests are, with content that speaks to their passions and accessibility that suits them, without the constraints of a broadcast spectrum license.

"We're not beholden to a schedule, or competing interests; with our platform, we can cover a heck of a lot more content and games with our own channel, just as fans have come to expect with the likes of industry pioneers like Twitch," Jones add.

Now, while Australian gamers "have their pick of game developer-led and other industry competitions, the AEL University Cup will be the first structured university league for teams of elite amateur-grade athletes who want to develop their skills with a view to going pro".

Indeed, we are informed that "it also provides direct career pathways for aspiring students who wish to learn about behind-the-scenes production, commentary or esports administration."

Jones jumps straight back into the action, stating: "The AEL team produces absolutely brilliant broadcast content that it is our privilege to provide a home for; it's exciting, compelling and sets a high bar for esports broadcasting in this country. This is important given we know there is no difference in expectation between mobile and TV audiences in terms of quality.

"The AEL University Cup may be new, but the rate of growth of esports as entertainment is astounding. The fact that we've entered a five-year agreement with AEL − the longest broadcast agreement we've signed to-date − should tell you how bullish we are about the competition's potential to build audience quickly, and sustain that growth".

Here we hear from "executive producer and co-founder of AEL, Darren Kwan, who has been working in esports for more than 16 years, knew that the right broadcast partner would be key to the AEL University Cup's ability to attract and build its fan base."

Kwan said: "Our experience working with the likes of SBS Viceland and Fox Sports over the past few years has given AEL fantastic grounding on how to produce top-quality content for sports and lifestyle broadcasting. In setting up this league however, we knew that our long-term broadcast partner needed to live and breathe mobile.

"For our fans, mobile is their first screen. OVO has built its entire business around mobile broadcasting and understands how to excite and attract fans of the sport and entertainment it supports through OVOPlay.

"We were also very excited at the prospect of being able to make AEL content available data-free. Our primary audience values their data allowance more than they do their weekly food budget; if they're with OVO, our channel can be always-on without them having to spend a kilobyte.

"Even from our first conversation with OVO, it was clear they could see the potential of what we're trying to achieve with AEL. People who are new to esports frequently struggle to get their heads around the idea. OVO on the other hand, which has a culture of actively looking for popular sports that are underrepresented in traditional media, was already actively searching for a competition like ours.

"We've created a home-grown competition to attract the most talented university-age esports athletes in the country, and I can't think of a better partner than OVO to help us build our audience," Kwan concluded.

Finally, it's fascinating to see some of the investors and backers of OVO, which notes that investors in OVO "include OneVentures, Southern Cross Austereo, Warner Music, Intel and Citrix".

So, if having data-free access to OVO's esports channel is something that appeals, which it surely will to many given the predicted 1 million young adults expected to flock to the service, then you may well want to give OVO a go, for its content, competitive plans and business cunning in collating cool content as a daring differentiator. Let the esporting games begin!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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