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The Esports Opportunity for Professional AV

esports

By Helen Matthews
Futuresource Consulting

Esports’ ascendance into the mainstream is presenting an ever-growing opportunity for manufacturers and resellers of professional audiovisual, IT and video equipment.

Despite the pervasiveness of online-only events throughout 2021 and 2022, as well as the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, the market saw a 76% rise in pro AV sell-in, when comparing 2022 to pre-Covid 2019. Despite this mammoth increase, spend remains below pre-pandemic levels, achieving $243m in 2022, in comparison to $246m in 2019.

Rising investments

We can largely attribute the rise in sell-in to investments in professional PTZs, production switchers, pro-LED displays. These technologies are all used to raise the production value of online-only events. Feedback suggests that pro PTZs have provided a low-cost solution to remotely capture shoutcaster footage, in a time when budgets were tight.

Pro-LED display walls have also seen climbing investments, both for virtual production during online-only esports spectacles as well as from stadiums investing in new display screens during the prolonged quiet period. This will create a difference between the pre- and post-COVID-19 live experience.

Recovery is in sight

Spend on pro AV equipment in esports didn’t manage to top pre-pandemic levels, mainly due to the impact of live event cancellation on demand for system cameras and professional audio technologies. Although online-only events generated an appetite for pro PTZs, system cameras did not benefit from the same demand, hampered by their premium cost and lack of out of the box usability. Similarly, PA systems make up the majority of pro audio spend in esports but rely on live events to drive demand.

The pro AV market is expected to recover from the pandemic’s impact in 2023. In-person events are set to return at a frequency similar to the pre-pandemic esports calendar, driving demand for new audio technologies, pro PTZs, switchers, system cameras, mirrorless cameras and professional camcorders – as well as the technology to support signal distribution, lighting and displays.

Some areas to take a hit

Not all pro AV equipment from before the pandemic has survived, however. Reduced investment in pro LCD and projector displays, and the cost of LED displays dropping significantly throughout the pandemic, cannibalized demand for LCD displays. Pro audio spend will also take a hit, despite the budding return of in-person events. Production companies are aiming to use smaller spaces, requiring smaller – and therefore less expensive – PA systems.

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Production companies strive to lower costs

The move towards smaller studio spaces for in-person events is being driven by the success of online-only events. With an online-only events sometimes costing a tenth of an in-person event – while offering more personalized advertising opportunities – production companies are keen to reduce the cost of in-person events to match. One method to achieve this is using smaller, multipurpose studio spaces, over large, dedicated esports venues. Not only does this reduce the cost of rent, but also reduces the budget necessary to kit out the venue with the right pro AV equipment – particularly if they can rent equipment from the venue. Moreover, it allows the event to be mobile, both nationally and internationally, so the production can reach a wider audience.

Immersive technologies

With production companies keen to drive down costs, opportunities for pro AV equipment in esports over the next five years will rely on technologies that can immerse an audience, both in person and online. This will further engage them with the event, justifying investment to production companies.

This is already being seen with LEDs and the use of virtual production. Although, as this technology is still in its infancy, there will be plenty of room to level up available technologies and drive investment from the esports industry in the next few years.

Audio manufacturers should take note: with immersive sound key to the gaming experience, mirroring this at in-person events will be a key driver for success in the future. Brands like Holoplot and L’accoustics are making significant advancements in this area, but there are still opportunities for others to enter this space. Moreover, with the growing popularity of pro PTZs, investment in system cameras will be driven by the desire to gain specialist shots, either with shallow depth of field, slow motion or high-resolution content for archival purposes.

All of this will increase the demands on media servers and signal distribution at esports events, further driving growth in this area.

For the full insight as it appears on Futuresource’s website, click here. 

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