Toronto-based theScore is best known for its sports news and betting apps. But it has quickly developed a strong following on YouTube for esports – surpassing 1 million subscribers last November.
Now, the company is adding to its esports repertoire by introducing live-streamed shows and community events to gaming fans.
theScore’s esports vertical, launched in 2015, has undergone multiple iterations, according to Aubrey Levy, who oversees esports strategy as the company’s vice president of content. What began as just providing scores and highlights of significant pro leagues and events has shifted to a focus on competitive gaming culture.
“It’s been a bit of navigation and an exploratory journey to get to the strategy that works,” Levy said. “We started by thinking we could leverage our existing sports app and apply that to esports when nobody was doing that. We did that. We marketed the hell out of it and saw some pickup, but ultimately we saw a cap on that addressable audience, which was surprising.”
theScore now produces between eight to 10 original shows weekly for viewers, delving into crucial moments from competitions and profiling player personalities. The approach is a common one within esports circles as a means to grow the industry’s popularity with casual gamers while appeasing hardcore fans.
Rather than adapting franchises to popular esports titles, theScore’s original shows, including “The Story Of” and “Esports Shorts,” look for story angles from competitive League of Legends or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that directly fit its shows concepts. theScore also partners with publishers to produce one-off series that promote a tournament or a younger esports title such as Mortal Kombat or Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.
Staff being forced to work remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t led to a disruption in any of theScore’s programming. theScore attracted a record 23.3 million views in March, a number it later surpassed in April with 28 million views. The company attributes the rise in viewership partly to the backdrop of traditional sports being on pause.
“I think consumers are looking for outlets, and fortunately, we’ve been able to benefit in terms of an uptick in viewership because of that,” Levy said. theScore’s April viewership totals represent a 150% year-over-year increase.
Following the success producing video-on-demand content for streaming audiences, theScore took its first crack at running a live esports event around Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege on May 1.
The COVID-19 relief event, “Pros vs. Plebs,” offered fans of Rainbow Six Siege a chance to enter a one-day competition and face off against current world champions SpaceStation Gaming and former world champion and esports content creator George “KingGeorge” Kassa.
Fans gave $5 per entry – which was donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund part of the Global Giving’s Disaster Recovery Network. More than $8,000 was raised, according to theScore.
The three-hour stream was broadcast on theScore’s Twitch and YouTube channels and was produced without the help of a third-party, according to the company. More than 37,000 fans have watched the event as of May 4.
“This is an extension to live streaming from VOD, and less so about starting an events division,” Levy said. “The event just seemed like a good opportunity for us to dip our toes into the water with livestreaming.”
theScore concedes there will be a large amount of trial and error as it introduces more live shows or community-based gaming competitions across multiple titles. To date, there is no defined or concrete content strategy for its new approach.
However, in the leadup to the coronavirus pandemic, theScore came up with several show ideas to test, including a desk-side studio show and another focused on gameplay style.
“Honestly, I think both live shows and events are open avenues for us,” Levy said. “We have the capacity to run these community-based events. And if they are successful I think we have the ability to continue standing those up across multiple titles. At the same time, we figure out our next live show after our charity event. I think you’ll probably see us try out both.”