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Esports debuts at broadcasting convention in Las Vegas

Esports will make its debut at the National Association of Broadcasters Show this year as its burgeoning growth heralds a new revenue stream for the broadcast and media industries.

The NAB Show, which has been held annually since 1923, will feature its first Esports Experience during the four-day trade show to be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center from Sunday through Thursday. The show is not open to the public.

Millions of millennials — people born between about 1981 and 1996 — and Gen Z — people born between about 1996 and 2016 — want to watch other people play blockbuster video games like “League of Legends,” generating new demand for services from broadcasting to video editing. Esports is the fastest growing spectator sport, according to Intel Corp, which makes chips for gaming.

“NAB Show’s slogan is ‘Where Content Comes to Life.’ Clearly, eSports is a programming content category that is moving beyond millennials and into the mainstream of American society,” said Dennis Wharton, NAB executive vice president for communications. “Our goal is to provide a platform for gaming companies to educate and expose our attendees to new trends and business opportunities that come with the growth of eSports.”

Companies exhibiting in the new pavilion will showcase the technology behind eSports production and distribution. They will also demonate how brands can target the esports audience and how companies can monetize its growth. The show will feature several talks and panels dedicated to the esports industry.

The global audience for esports is forecast to grow 15 percent this year to about 450 million, according to gaming research firm Newzoo. Industry revenues will breach $1 billion for the first time in 2019, including nearly $500 million in revenue from media rights and advertising, Newzoo said.

“For the media and broadcasting industries, esports and, more broadly gaming and game streaming, will be a key component of their future media strategies,” said Cleo Sardelis, head of communications at Amsterdam-based Newzoo.

ESPN, the sports broadcaster owned by Walt Disney Co., announced last month it will holding its first-ever College Esports Championship in May.

1,600 exhibitors

NAB Show will feature about 1,600 exhibitors from the fields of media, entertainment and technology. More than 93,000 industry professionals are anticipated to attend, making NAB Show one of the top three annual conventions in Las Vegas.

However, attendance has dipped in recent years from a peak of about 103,000 as the broadcast and media industries undergo major disruption and consolidation.

Technology giants like Netflix, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple have expanded their influence in the industry. Just last month Apple announced its new TV streaming service. Amazon and Google are now among NAB exhibitors.

While new players enter the market, others are getting taken over. Walt Disney recently completed the acquisition of TV and studio assets from 21st Century Fox, AT&T closed its deal for Time Warner, and Comcast bought pay-TV company Sky.

5G rolling out

The broadcast and media industries face further major change with the dawn of fifth-generation mobile technology, known as 5G.

The new telecommunications standard, which is being rolled out across the globe, will increase data speeds as well as the number of devices connected to the internet, creating new business opportunities.

5G will enable people to watch live videos without delays even including while traveling in a car. Two new pavillions at the show this year focus on 5G and the future car experience.

The In-vehicle Experience will include at least five companies and feature two cars directly on the show floor.

The new pavilions underscore the evolution of NAB Show, which was traditionally aimed at the TV and radio industries. Now, fewer than 30 percent of attendees identify themselves as pure “broadcasters,” according to Wharton.

Attendees include Hollywood post-production professionals, indie filmmakers, executives from cable, satellite and internet companies, as well as professionals from manufacturing and advertising.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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