Interview with Philippe Laurent, Co-founder/CEO, easylive.io

French live streaming-video pioneer easylive.io says it is ideally placed to enable esports entertainment producers to boost revenues at a time when media rights are among the fastest growing income streams in the global competitive-gaming space.

With gaming giants like Twitch, Tencent Games and Facebook for clients, easylive.io’s goal is to broadcast their professional esports shows at the same uncompromising high standards expected for the world’s top-tier traditional-sports organisations, CEO/co-founder Philippe Laurent  tells Esports BAR.

And the real test of the company’s ability to fulfil that mission came at the start of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

I think the first two months of the Covid had us working at full steam, seven days a week, non-stop. The demand exploded and it was tough. But we did not panic for fear of not being able to deliver. Because, even in the worst-case scenario, that could never happen. We responded to all our customers’ needs and we left nobody behind – Laurent

 

Entertainment in the cloud

That fail-safe approach is due to its ambitions to be “the all-in-one streaming production studio fully in the cloud”.

easylive.io  business as a video and audio production system uses cloud computing to produce, edit, mix and distribute content to multiple digital outlets, including streaming services, social-media networks and linear-TV broadcasters.

Because the workflow (the production-chain process via which a show is made, digitised and distributed across the Internet to the viewer’s device) is in the cloud, it is decentralised. Consequently, easylive.io’s streaming-tech tools can be offered remotely to clients in any part of the world.

This enables gaming producers, esports organisations and brands to have a decentralised workflow to deliver their streamed content wherever, whenever and however they want –  Laurent

Efficiency is a priority in what can be a complex operation. And easylive.io can deliver a customised live video feed for events at a physical venue to a fan’s digital device in near real time, leaving the client to focus on producing the original show.

It is in the same way you can watch the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament worldwide with one TV-broadcast production crew around the pitch. The video feed is delivered in 180 languages around the world in 180 different configurations. That’s what we can do for esports at easylive.io –  Laurent

 

easylive.io solution

 

High-profile customers

Since nabbing €2.1m in investment funds from French venture-capital firm Trust Esport and private-equity company Bpifrance last year, easylive.io has focused on developing its technology and market share.

With offices in France and the US and customers in about 40 territories, it serves corporations, private and public organisations plus independent producers that need affordable interactive digital tech to distribute entertainment and other content to end consumers.

After clinching a contract with streaming-service colossus Twitch in 2015, esports ventures are among eight-year-old easylive.io’s fast expanding client base, already representing 20%-plus of its business.

Other current gaming clients include Tencent Games, PUBG, Nodwin Gaming  and Caffeine.tv.

The company brings to esports, experiences gained from hosting streaming for other sports, media and entertainment ventures.

They include:

  • Traditional sports giants (the English Premier League, NFL team Los Angeles Rams, legendary French soccer teams Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique de Marseille);
  • Established media corporations (Facebook, LinkedIn, Vox, Belgium RTBF, Tesh Media);
  • Corporate groups (BNP Paribas , BPI France); plus
  • International non-profit organisations (the US’ National Cancer Institute,, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research CERN).

 

Esports as media

As online broadcast becomes as sophisticated as traditional linear TV, the global value of the media rights for streamed esports is escalating.

Research company Newzoo predicts esports’s audience will reach 450 million-plus this year. The figure could be higher as more consumers discover gaming during the Covid pandemic’s lockdown. In response, the competition for competitive-gaming media rights is accelerating.

For a reported US$160m, Google’s YouTube has snatched away the streaming esports rights to Activision Blizzard game Overwatch from the Amazon-owned Twitch and received the Call of Duty and Hearthstone rights too.

Meanwhile, Twitch has acquired the exclusive English-language digital live-streaming rights to major ESL and DreamhHack events for 2021 and 2022.

Facebook Gaming has launched its own dedicated gaming app, Google introduced its cloud-based gaming platform Stadia last year, while Apple’s gaming service Arcade is reported to be seeking esports content.

 

Robust connectivity

As Laurent points out, however, much of esports’s live-streaming media remains unprofitable because of the inconsistent quality of video broadcast in the industry. A majority of esports organisers still rely on the public Internet to hold their competitions.

This leads to a lot of issues such as disconnections and feeds dropping off several times,” Laurent explains. “For budget reasons, some esports producers have no other option than to depend on the local Internet connection at the venue and have no control over the network.”

On the other hand, he notes, professional esports is growing rapidly. Gaming behemoths like MTG subsidiary ESL, the Tencent-backed Riot Games, and Activision Blizzard have the billion-dollar resources to host premium-standard tournaments to match Europe’s colossal UEFA Champions League soccer final or the NFL’s Super Bowl in the US.

The broadcast workflow for what they do is huge. The Internet connection and the feed could never go down. If their screens go dark, gamers will leave for another channel or another platform and the audience goes from thousands of people to zero, just like that – Laurent

 

The easilive.io solution

Laurent highlights examples of what his company’s cloud-based technology can do for streaming-esports enterprises.

  1. Internet backup: An Internet disconnection at the height of any drama during a competition is preventable. “Every streamed event has a primary feed, plus a separate secondary feed. If one goes down for whatever reason, we switch automatically to the other one.”
  2. Scalable simulcasting: easylive.io can multi-stream it to multiple countries simultaneously and the content can be customised locally with commentators speaking in the local language or sponsors activating localised marketing campaigns.
  3. Multi-platform offerings: The video feeds can be delivered simultaneously to different streaming platforms in each country, from Twitch, YouTube Gaming to a local service provider. “You cannot send the same feed to YouTube and Facebook or Twitter as the video can be rejected by the receiving destination. But if you offer exactly what each destination expects, then you maximise your viewership and audience retention rate.”
  4. Playlists: Clients can enhance the live-stream content with their own tailor-made round-the-clock video-on-demand channels containing in-house productions, advertising breaks and subscribers’ user-generated content, all scheduled to be broadcast in a predetermined order.

In the end, what we do comes down to one thing. Do you meet a need? You are there to fill a gap. It’s not a question of a client having unlimited budget. It depends on the game’s title, on the country being targeted, the marketing effort behind it – Laurent

 

 

 

Innovation

The company’s proven ability to be technologically innovative also ensures its future. To that end, it invests heavily in R&D (research and development) to discover cutting-edge new services.

One result of such inventiveness is the FanWall. For this, easylive.io has used technology to enhance one of broadcast media’s most coveted assets: the ability to capture the authentic buzz and emotions of an audience inside a venue and at home spontaneously on the screen.

The FanWall received a massive endorsement recently from the English Premier League, the UK multi billion-dollar football organisation.

To be deployed during the League’s Covid-stricken season as the quarantine bans audiences from stadiums, the FanWall aims to use streamed video via huge screens installed at the venues to replicate the same passion you get from live spectators.

Selected fans watch the live game on the smartphones, laptops or tablets. easylive.io’s tech captures their reactions, creates a gallery from them and transmits the results to each club to display on their stadium screens and to any TV network taking the feed – all in a matter of milliseconds.

We capture the fans’ reaction in real time when a goal is scored. And the streaming or TV broadcaster can switch to their response immediately. That is where easylive.io makes a difference. Making that direct connection between the stadium and the fan via streaming is a breakthrough that has never been done by anyone else. We also worked jointly with Haivision, one of our key partners to reduce latency as much as possible. Our FanWall technology works with all types of encoders but by coupling our technology with Haivision products the results have been even more amazing in terms of interactivity – Laurent

 

Tech-powered fan engagement

Laurent predicts that a tool like the FanWall is a precursor to the kind of fan-engagement innovation esports needs and will inspire, especially as it is still difficult for fans to interact with their favourite players during a professional tournament.

He also notes that esports will  benefit from the innovations that wealthier legacy sports organisations are able to support financially.

And with traditional-sports operators, including the Premier League and other professional organisations in American football, basketball, tennis and motor sports, investing heavily in esports, the innovation in one will transfer easily to the other.

They have more in common than we think – Laurent

 

Fans are the future

Easylive.io’s ongoing ambition, during and post-Covid, is to improve the service on offer to its customers, who need to keep esports (and other entertainment) fans happy if they are to stay in business as well.

We’ve seen a lot of traction from that connection between the content producer, the broadcaster and the audience (during Covid); we want to continue heading in that direction – Laurent

Even after the Covid quarantines come to an end and venue-based esports tournaments return to their normal levels, the use of technology to boost the tight knit interaction between the teams, leagues, fans and their communities will still be imperative.

If you are a stadium with a huge Fortnite competition in London, for example, it will feature esports athletes from all over the world. The fans who cannot be present and are watching online at home will also be expressing their excitement. The ability to bring to the screen the reaction of those fans from all those countries in real time will be worth the cost. The close-up of a happy fan’s excitement will be worth every penny – Laurent

easylive.io, the number one cloud-based production studio, is the official partner of Esports BAR+ Americas, providing the live platform. Philippe is also a speaker. Check out the whole line-up and our programme here!

About Author

Juliana Koranteng

Juliana Koranteng is the founder/editor-in-chief of MediaTainment Finance (MTF) and TechMutiny, the business journals that cover investments in international media, entertainment and creative sectors, and the impact of related digital technologies.

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