Will esports today become as culturally important as rock 'n' roll was to the 1960s? Machinima thinks so, and it's launching a new in-house agency timed to the Digital Content NewFronts today to help brands ride what it sees as the next wave of entertainment content.
"Esports is kind of like rock 'n' roll in 1959—it's a hugely passionate category for people that other people don't yet fully appreciate or understand," Chad Gutstein, Machinima's CEO told Adweek before his company's NewFronts presentation this morning. "Fifty years from now, people are going to look back and go, 'How could you not understand eSports?"
The goal behind the new agency—dubbed Mach-1—is to make esports more mainstream beyond the core group of video game publishers and entertainment brands that have traditionally targeted gaming audiences. Machinima is a multi-channel network (MCN) best known for creating content that targets die-hard gaming and comics fans, but has been making a hard push into esports specifically lately.
In February, the CW aired the finale of its series Chasing the Cup that followed professional Mortal Kombat X players.
According to research conducted by SuperData, more than 188 million people will watch competitive gaming this year, making up a $190 million market.
"There are so many executives that I've talked to in the past year that are brand marketers or agency people saying, 'We really need to be here, but we don't have the tool set to make that business case yet,'" Gustein said. "This is not just about buying Machinima content or Machinima media—Mach-1 is really about being an insight-based and strategic-based agency."
Gutstein said that Mach-1 will work with agencies and directly with brands to build strategies using its data, insights and content. For example, Machinima is able to suss out gamers who play games specifically because they want to play with friends and are also likely to buy fast food.
Machinima is also launching a new media-buying product called Machinima Preferred Media Solutions that lets brands target segments of gamers on YouTube who play games with six different behavioral traits: Action, mastery, social experiences, achievements, immersion and creativity.
"Not only do we have demographic targeting, but now we're able to layer on top of that behavioral segmentation on a media basis," Gustein explained.
As for Machinima's actual NewFronts presentation, it's hosting a small panel this morning to talk about esports—including Alex Rodriguez (who hosts the Machinima show "Inside eSports") Turner Sports' vp and general manager Craig Barry and Jesse Wofford, digital sports marketing manager for Bud Light.