SCA CEO says e-sports remains 'the wild west' in Australia

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 28 August 2018

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) CEO Grant Blackley has labelled the e-sports industry in Australia 'the wild west' in terms of securing rights and profitable deals.

Speaking to AdNews, Blackley says while the company has looked into securing deals over the past 12 months, unlike SCA's competitors, it has not yet found a "path into profitability".

Australian Radio Network (ARN) owner HT&E, and Nova Entertainment both have e-sports deals, mainly focused around hosting or sponsoring tournament series.

Last year, HT&E helped launch local e-sports tournament Gfinity e-sportsAustralia, while earlier this year, Nova Entertainment entered into an exclusive strategic partnership with ESL, the world’s largest e-sports company.

"There has not been an opportunity or a path into profitability that we think is suitable," Blackley says.

"We remain open to entry into the sector but I think it is fair to say that e-sports for Australian rights is a bit of the wild west and most parties are not making any money."

Blackley says it's the international players making money due to their "dominant position" as content owners and the licensing agreements they have locally to distribute the content.

Adding that "there isn't a lot of that happening in Australia", only small-scale opportunities and none with enough appeal to warrant SCA's investment.

"We've seen some results come out from our peers in the media sector over the past couple of weeks and I don't see anyone talking about it being a highly profitable and scaleable sector, even if they are in it," Blackley says.

"We have an eyes wide open approach but we also have a very disciplined approach to where we invest and where we don't."

Rather than invest in e-sports, SCA is focused heavily on its growing events business, which includes the popular RnB Fridays and Vine Days events, as well as an emerging podcast platform.

Over this financial year, SCA expects that it will sell 50% more tickets to the RnB live events than it did last year.

"In live events, we are extremely active and we are doing that on a large scale, so we are selling 150,000 tickets for these events. We're not just doing it on a rooftop anymore," Blackley says.

"We're already there and we have been there for quite some time, we just don't call it out as much as our peers but the RnB live events have been nothing short of fantastic."

This events business rivals Nova's Red Rooms, as well as the company's latest venture, a live experience business, Exp.

Over the past 12 months, the business has also created PodcastOne, its own commercialised podcast platform.

From launch its in August last year, on a premium content basis, the business has delivered 45 million downloads while averaging 1.5m downloads per week.

Blackley believes this to be roughly 40% of the commercial podcast market.

"We've deployed that capital and we have created a leading benchmark in the marketplace and that has been through the engagement of 45 original authors and we will engage with another 20-30 in this fiscal year, broadening it out further," he says.

"A lot of the monetisation is to follow because we have building the brand and we've been developing a leading position in this space, so we expect the commercial benefits to be seen shortly."

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