Spotify Places Sports And Esports At Center Of Digital Audio Strategy
Spotify’s mission has changed slightly in recent years. No longer content with being just a music streaming service, Spotify wants to become a platform for all types of audio, encouraging users to spend as much time as possible listening to its content and driving subscriptions.
12 October 2019, Berlin: The e-sports teams Fnatic & SK Telecom
As podcasts and speech audio became increasingly popular, the concern was that listeners could be tempted away from music and to other platforms. Advertising revenues would fall and subscribers might decide to keep their cash.
Podcast functionality was added in 2015and Spotify is now investing hundreds of millions of dollars in acquiring podcast production companies. The idea is that Spotify will benefit from established audiences and original content – including sports.
An added benefit is that the company would be less dependent on the major record labels.
Spotify is happy leaving commentaries and other live formats to sports radio. Instead, it is looking at building a library of on-demand content with a longer shelf life that doesn’t necessitate negotiating the complex and often expensive world of broadcast rights.
It has appointed Amy Hudson to lead its sports content division and among its recent acquisitions is ESPN alumnus Bill Simmons’ ‘The Ringer’ network which produces several popular sports and pop culture podcasts. There is also a focus on becoming a ‘sports lifestyle’ hub.
Spotify is increasingly viewed as another social channel for sports organizations, while the company itself now offers a curated daily playlist to U.S. users that combines music and sports audio.
When Spotify acquired The Ringer, its CEO Daniel Ek declared it had acquired the “next ESPN”. But Spotify is making sure that it isn’t just catering for a traditional audience, but that it also appeals to younger demographics who are interested in esports.
Spotify has just announced its first-ever esports partnership with Riot Games, becoming the official audio streaming partner for the League of Legends. The game is one of the most popular esports in the world and commands huge audiences on YouTube and Switch with hundreds of millions of players.
As part of the deal, Spotify will create original audio content and launch a dedicated hub featuring new music, podcasts and playlists inspired by the League of Legends community. The headline piece of content will be a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the official anthem for this year’s World Championships which starts on September 25th.
The Worlds anthem is a major part of each World Championships. Previous efforts have featured major artists like Imagine Dragons and Zedd and each song is accompanied by a bespoke video. It’s a big deal and evidence of the crossover appeal between the worlds of music and eSports.
Naturally, there is a marketing element of the partnership. Spotify will be the official 'presenting partner' for the deciding game in a best of five series. This reflects the fact that the fifth game in a series is preceded by a piece of music called 'Silver Scrapes' that has a huge resonance with the League of Legends community.
Sports audio is becoming an increasingly intense battlefield between established broadcasters like the BBC and digital media companies like Spotify and The Athletic. The latter has a huge array of team and sport-specific podcasts in both the U.S. and U.K., boosted by the acquisition of Muddy Knees Media and Tifo Football.
Meanwhile, the overlap between esports and music is growing all the time, with recording artists and labels having interests in professional gaming ventures.
Spotify appears to be keen to have all bases covered.