Could Catsup TV finally bring regular Esports viewing to Philippine TV?
Are we getting close enough to watching full tournaments and not just main events or championship matches on local Television?
Electronic Sports shows and Television has always been one of the most favorite topics when it comes to discussions regarding making professional competitive gaming more accessible to the mainstream with feats such as ELEAGUE and the The International Dota 2 Championships already made available via cable subscribers.
Philippine TV is also not new to broadcasting major Esports events with tournaments such as the League of Legends World Championships and the Manila Major were both shown on local television together with the official livestream broadcasts, however, it can be noted that only the Grand Final matches of both tournaments were featured and not the whole tournament itself.
Enter Catsup TV, a digital-only free-to-air sub-channel of TV5 which is the Philippine TV Channel that once aired the Grand Finals of the League of Legends World Championships 2015 and the Manila Major 2016. While Catsup TV’s listed purpose is to re-run select top rated shows from its parent channel, it was just recently reported to be doing a full rerun of the Manila Major 2016, a prestige, Valve-sponsored tournament originally held last May 2016 in the Mall of Asia, Arena following the success of ESL One Manila.
Livestream versus Television
Livestream viewing has always been the top choice when watching Electronic Sports events and is also one of the reasons as to why Esports boomed so much to become a USD 325 Million industry back in 2015 with online Esports viewers reaching a count of 226 million on the same year. While Television may hardly be anywhere near those numbers, ELEAGUE’s television viewership which averaged more than 250,000 viewers during its 11 week run for the first season holds promise to tapping into the mainstream audience via Television.
The Pinoy Live Audience
The Philippine gaming population is reported to have reached 30 million gamers by 2015 which in turn helped churn out USD 166 million in revenues for the same year, however, as the country may have reached millions in gamer count, this did not largely translate to the online gaming audience which only averages 60,000 per month on Twitch according to a live report from Quancast.
One possible reason being cited is due to the limitations of the country’s internet technology, which is considered by many as one of the slowest and most expensive in South East Asia and the affordable promotions from ISPs currently being limited by Bandwidth caps.
This might prove a good opportunity for Television channels such as Catsup TV to consider tapping into the Filipino gaming audience by broadcasting esports tournaments, however there are certain limitations that might affect the esports venture into a mainstream media platform such as the TV.
While there is potential in tapping into the mainstream or the TV audience when it comes to Esports there are also limitations. Currently, Catsup TV is broadcasting what we assume as a full rerun of the Manila Majors 2016 main event which includes the Playoffs and the Finals phase, however, despite being a rerun, the broadcast is being done on the wee hours of the night which makes it feel more of a filler rather than part of regular programming.
Schedule limitations in TV broadcast can be attributed to the high popularity of serials which occupy primetime slots, other than that there is also the limit of access to channels that broadcast Esports tournaments such as Catsup TV and Warner TV (which broadcasted ELEAGUE) as these channels will require either a separate digital receiver or cable subscription.
In addition to these, esports runtimes are not essentially catered towards a television audience as prestige events can run for up to 10 hours a day depending on the scheduled number of matches. While ELEAGUE may be able to pull off a TV broadcast, it is noted that the weekly shows are backed by daily livestreams which showed the majority of the tournament.
Overcoming Barriers for Regular Programming
So how can a channels such as Catsup TV bring regular Esports programming to Pinoy television? Even though it is on cable, the country’s Paid TV subscriber count is estimated to sit around 1.5 Million according to a 2010 report by the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia with a huge chunk of it being composed of the Esports target demographic, the Youth, and is still growing despite facing tough hurdles.
While threatened by the presence of primetime competition, Esports programming can still occupy the latter parts of the primetime slot, which in the Philippines starts at 10:00 PM and continue on towards the late night broadcast slot. International event schedules and formats might be a bane for local schedules however, a potential partnership with local organizers and content creators might help generate programs that will fit the schedule.
But perhaps the biggest barrier that Philippine Esports needs to overcome if it really wants to push through with tapping into the TV platform is to gain ample amount of support and interest from the country’s 30 million strong gamer base as to help attract, not only content creators but also sponsors and investors to help make this dream a concrete reality.
Catsup TV’s Manila Major 2016 rebroadcast can be accessed on Channel 2 for SkyCable and Destiny Cable, and on Channel 316 for Cablelink, Metro Manila TV plus subscribers can also try accessing Catsup TV via Channel 21, the rebroadcast is assumed to start at 12:00 midnight.