• Loading stock data...
Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Esports Offer NFL Draft a Roadmap for Hosting Remote Events

  • ESPN will receive more than 100 different feeds from the homes of talent, NFL personnel, and top prospects at its headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
  • Even if the tech prevails, “You lose a lot of the human element by not being able to film reactions in one space.”
Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL and ESPN make final preparations for the league’s first-ever virtual draft, both organizations may stand to learn lessons from esports in ensuring the three-day broadcast event runs as expected.

On Thursday night, ESPN will receive more than 100 different feeds from the homes of talent, NFL personnel, and top prospects at its headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. The company is set to run its own major mock draft tests the night before the main event, after some external testing by the NFL earlier this week.

However, no online production is safe from the occasional buffering or video lag. And with the complex technology and potential human variables involved, companies can’t be too prepared.

“You have to test, test, and be prepared for the unprepared,” Craig Levine, global chief strategy officer at ESL, said. “Remote events present a lot of new variables and a natural roughness around the edges.”

Esports have gone back to their roots during the coronavirus pandemic, as major tournament and league organizers have taken gameplay and operations entirely online in recent weeks – a call back to how the industry first got its start.

Amateur and semi-pro esports broadcasts regularly depend on home Wi-Fi connections instead of more reliable local area networks, Levine said. But esports’ most prominent competitions are normally played out in front of large crowds, with LAN, as the industry’s fandom and popularity have grown over time.

ESL was forced to adapt the format of its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ESL Pro League season in its final weeks to avoid major connectivity issues, the company said. Season 11 of the ESL Pro League concluded with regional playoffs in Europe and North America instead of one global tournament.

ESL One Los Angeles – a major live audience event for Dota 2 gamers, was also played out online and wrapped up on April 19.

“We suddenly had our production crew separated all over the world due to the pandemic, which created issues around Internet redundancy [used to ensure connection availability in case of primary device failure],” Levine said. “It’s a very different production workflow than sitting in a truck together.”

But despite those unique challenges, both the ESL Pro League and ESL One produced record-breaking viewership in terms of hours watched other key performance indicators, the German esports organization said. The competitions originally streamed on Twitch.

Without a live audience, storytelling becomes the real concern for NFL Draft producers and on-screen talent, Michael Van Driel, DreamHack’s chief product officer, said.

“You lose a lot of the human element by not being able to film reactions in one space,” Van Driel said.

READ MORE: Q&A: ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio on Covering the First ‘Virtual’ NFL Draft

Dreamhack, a Swedish esports production company that hosts several live events, is filling possible holes in its storytelling by relying on its database of player and team statistics to call on during telecasts. For example, communicating how CS: GO teams have performed on certain in-game maps historically. More interviews with players are also being conducted.

DreamHack began qualifiers for its Spring PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds tournament on April 21. The company’s flagship DreamHack Masters event for CS: GO, scheduled to begin in June, has also been pushed up to May 19.

ESPN is cognizant of the challenge a remote draft presents to producing a well-rounded event for fans. The network will work with Walt Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer & International subsidiary to aggregate feeds during the telecast.

“We have to replicate the imagery, content, and emotion of the draft in Bristol,” Mike Feinberg, coordinating director of production operations at ESPN, said. “Thirty-plus prospects go into a typical draft day, and we have cameras in place to capture the pageantry of the event. The challenge is, how do we do that when prospects will now be in their homes?”

READ MORE: NFL Draft Networks Face Web Of Challenges For TV’s Primetime Return

The 2020 NFL Draft will offer the league an opportunity to cater to fans’ curiosity around the one-time virtual event, Matt Edelman, chief commercial officer of Super League Gaming, said. Common images of Roger Goodell shaking draftee’s hands after team selections will be missing this year, so the league and its partners will have to get creative.

“Building a narrative without that usual TV component is a new muscle,” Edelman said. “There’s a type of energy that fans watching the NFL draft have been used to. Viewers will not know what they want. If the energy doesn’t strike well with fans, they’ll check out and read about the results later.”

Super League Gaming, an operator of amateur esports events across North America for titles such as PUBG Mobile, Street Fighter, and Minecraft, has taken all of its operations online, resulting in more player signups for tournaments during the pandemic, according to the company.

The organization has also allowed brands committed to advertising in esports to sponsor broadcast elements, such as replays and player profiles, now that in-person activations aren’t available.

Both ESL and DreamHack also said that Integrating brands into telecasts has been a relatively painless process so far. Existing ad buys have been repurposed for digital streams, which have seen spikes in viewerships with more fans staying at home. Select brand partners of the organizations include Pepsi, AT&T, Monster Energy, and Intel.

“Sponsors are usually on location, but things like logo placements are easily transported to online segments run during the telecast,” Van Driel said. “We can’t really replace the in-person engagement, but it’s worked out pretty well in that we can say this is usually the exposure you get, and this is the digital equivalent.”

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Feb 18, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Western Conference center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots the ball during the first half of the 73rd NBA All Star game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

NBC Poised to Grab NBA All-Star Game Rights

The deal would be a major coup for the network.

‘Where’s truTV?’ March Madness Channel Is Now TNT Sports’ New Star

Warner Bros. Discovery will make its sports emphasis on truTV ‘even more pronounced and consistent.’
Feb 16, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Team Stephen A coach Stephen A. Smith looks on against Team Shannon during the All Star Celebrity Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Stephen A. Smith Could Get a $100 Million Payday, Thanks to Pat McAfee

Smith has looked like the ultimate team player in contrast to McAfee.

Another Milestone for NWSL: Angel City FC’s Potential $300M Valuation

Earlier this year, the San Diego Wave sold for $113 million.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Formula E is Powering Its Own Future

0:00

Featured Today

Jan 7, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley (0) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium.

Without Hard-Line Bans, Pro Athletes and Personnel Will Keep Betting on Sports

Penalties often aren’t stringent or consistent enough to deter banned behavior.
Oct 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goddell speaks during the Don Shula Celebration of Life at Hard Rock Stadium.
July 13, 2024

The NFL Is Confident It Can Overturn the Sunday Ticket Verdict

The league may have good reason to believe it can win.
July 8, 2024

NFLPA Report Cards Have Become the ‘Talk of the Locker Room’ Across..

NFLPA report cards have become the ‘talk of the locker room.’
July 7, 2024

The New College Sports Insiders Are Graphic Designers

Joe Tipton and Hayes Fawcett have become premier news-breakers on social media.
Sponsored

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
June 14, 2024

IOC Proposes Holding Separate Olympics for Esports

The organization’s executive board has proposed a separate Olympics for online gaming.
July 3, 2024

Esports Winter: NBA 2K League Hits Pause Button Amid Industry Decline

The previously high-profile esports league is now effectively on hiatus amid widespread layoffs.
Sponsored

TopSpin 2K25 Brings the Legends of Tennis to Your Living Room

2K sports is reviving a classic with TopSpin 2K25.
Sponsored

How Daily Fantasy Sports Solved NBA Fantasy

The remarkable growth of the #1 Discord sports server in the world.
February 29, 2024

Electronic Arts’ Layoffs Signal Ongoing Evolution, Struggles

The company is set to make a second major round of staff cuts in the last year.
Oct 5, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, points to the lettering outside of the museum Tuesday.
February 28, 2024

How Do You Keep Negro Leagues Baseball History Alive? Put It in a Video Game

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum attracting increased donations, visits from ‘MLB The Show.’
Sony-Playstation-Demo-Booth
February 27, 2024

Sony to Lay Off 900 From PlayStation Team After Missed Sales Target

Cuts come amid a tough stretch for the gaming industry.