BLAST, the international esports company, has not only retained its roaring business growth rate during the current unsettling Covid pandemic, its tech-driven strategy is also key to establishing a future as a premium entertainment business, CEO Robbie Douek declares.
Speaking during an insightful interview for the Esports BAR podcast, Douek outlines BLAST’s mission to reach as many consumers as possible worldwide, and to make competitive gaming truly accessible to both hardcore and casual fans.
These objectives come shortly after nabbing new funding, clinching new sponsorship and broadcast deals, launching a new competition, and developing new entertainment formats in its bid to become truly mass market.
We’re contributing to the development of esports going mainstream and becoming something that is bigger than it currently is, and is considered as highly as traditional sports and traditional entertainment – Douek
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An esports entertainer
Headquartered in Copenhagen and London, BLAST launched in 2017. It is famous for its series of Blast Premier tournaments and content, which are centred on Valve Corp’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) video game.
The company operates its own streaming channels on the Twitch and YouTube Gaming platforms. And, in 2019, it broadcast about 1 billion minutes of shows and tournaments on linear TV and non-linear streaming services in 19 languages across five continents.
This year, it has already launched a new online-only multiplayer battle arena competition based on Dota 2, Valve’s other key esports title.
A global proposition
A €12.5m investment round led by tech entrepreneur Johan Gedda in May will be used to further mainstream growth aspirations.
The company recently announced a major agreement to license the exclusive Mandarin-language streaming rights for Blast Premier to DouYu, the streaming platform backed by Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent Holdings.
We want to make sure that audiences around the world can watch our shows and our entertainment products in, most probably, their local language. That is why licensing and doing these deals with broadcasters around the world is hugely important – Douek
For Douek, tech and content innovation will bring BLAST, other esports and entertainment businesses closer to fans by offering compelling, engaging and, even, personalised content.
You’re going to have to constantly increase your innovation and technology outputs and make sure those fans are fully satisfied – Douek
The importance of improving fan engagement influenced BLAST’s decision to integrate Discord, the pioneering gaming-chat and messaging platform, into services offered to BLAST’s audiences.
Additionally, the company has introduced two new entertainment formats designed to involve fans more than ever in its esports competitions. They are BLAST Rising, an online-only tournament based on the CS: GO game; and BLAST Bounty Hunt, the inaugural Dota 2 event.
Challenging the Coronavirus crisis
Douek emphasises it was critical not to allow the Covid pandemic to hamper the connection with esports viewers.
The lockdown restrictions, he argues, propelled BLAST to think laterally and develop innovative concepts to ensure fans stayed entertained while quarantine regulations banned all venue-based spectator events.
Sure, we want fans to be able to go back into the arena to meet their heroes and watch live esports. But we’re innovators; we’re built to be able to deliver this. I think that is part and parcel of what esports is – Douek
Consequently, business has continued to grow in recent months. New endemic and non-endemic sponsorship deals have come from confectionery brand KitKat as well as gaming-accessory company SteelSeries, while there is also an agreement with The Smiley Company, the merchandise specialist famous for its smiling-emoticons designs.
BLAST’s achievements pre-Covid and during the lockdown will drive the company forward. From a technology standpoint, quite a lot of the stuff we’ve built and produced just over the last three months, I think, will be here to stay – Douek
If anything, he observes, the pandemic has forced the esports industry to be more pro-active about implementing innovation plans.
We’re trying to move towards being a household name and want the consumers that interact with us to feel very proud to do so – Douek
Tech triggers esports
In addition to foreseeing more growth for the total gaming industry, Douek expects esports to have a dynamic impact on traditional sports.
We obviously want the pie to grow even further. We want investment to come further into esports. We would like to see bigger dollars, bigger sponsorships, bigger broadcast deals. I think traditional sports will learn a lot from what esports has done, from the technology and innovation perspectives – Douek
Ultimately, however, the mission is to “produce some really cool output in and around consumer-facing brands, and it is all underpinned by tech, tech, tech.”
Discover more about Robbie Douek’s strategy for BLAST and esports by tuning into the Esports BAR podcast here.
Robbie Douek was interviewed by Spencer Bing, Hurrah.