eSports @ IMMAA

Media management theory did not really pay much attention to eSports and definitely neither saw in it media products nor media organizations. However, this all changed on Friday, September 14, 2018 in Stuttgart, when eSports jumped towards IMMAA.


Christian Scholz

A new kid on the block:
Here is eSports, the youngest member of the IMMAA-family

When I brainstormed with John Lavine many years ago about what 2006 became IMMAA, we did not think about anything as eSports to be part of our Media Management Association. Of course, I had some experience from playing Arcade Games such as Pacman from a bar at the Harvard Square in Cambridge/Mass. 1982/1983. But just a few people at that time called playing Pacman or Donkey Kong“sport” and definitely nobody saw any connection from that to media.

Even 20 years later this had not changed, but then slowly the movement picked up speed: Media companies such as ESPN included eSports in their program. The audience, used to watch the 49ers win and lose, now watched the games of teams like Fnatic. What is on ESPN, must be sport, and suddenly eSports was really considered a sport and might even qualify for the Olympics. Still, the classic media, such as TV and Newspapers, did and do not pay much attention to eSports.

Therefore, eSports created its own platforms, the internet streaming services such as Twitch, now bought by Amazon. And the numbers are quite impressive. The eSports industry is transforming the way media is consumed and it is experiencing an exponential growth: The last big tournament of League of Legends, comparable to the world championship in (“real”) football, gathered an audience of over 200 million viewers. Finally, eSports was not only something covered by media to some degree, the respective eSports organization are indeed media organizations.

Still, media management theory did not really pay much attention to eSports and definitely neither saw in it media products nor media organizations. However, this all changed on Friday, September 14, 2018 in Stuttgart, when eSports jumped towards IMMAA:

It started out with a panel discussion to the topic eSports as new phenomenon, which I was allowed to chair. The participants:

  • Simon Koschel, Head of Partnerships, DACH Twitch.TV,
  • David Hiltscher, Vice President Shop, Merchandise, Licensing at ESL – Turtle Entertainment,
  • Frederic Nimmermann, Researcher Universität Siegen, and
  • Tobias Scholz, Editor/Publisher of the eSports Yearbook and Researcher from the Universität Siegen.

This discussion has been fun (following the spirit of eSports), very enlightening (following the spirit IMMAA).  It became obvious, eSports is digital, global and agile. All this makes it interesting for any media company to learn from. Also, the eSports industry is reaching a young audience that many media companies are still struggling to reach. However, even though the two practitioners on the panel represent successful organizations, it became obvious, that not only media management theory has been ignoring eSports: the other way around, eSports does not really care too much for media management theory. There is much space for collaboration.

In the afternoon came the second panel which was a pure academic one with

  • Julia Hiltscher, Universität Bonn and also Editor of the eSports Yearbook (“Streaming in Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battleground: An eSports media phenomenon),
  • Frederic Nimmermann and Florian Neus, Universität Siegen (“Does the setting matter? Differences and similarities in motivation for offline and online eSports event consumption”),
  • Mark R. Johnson University of Alberta and Jamie Woodcock, University of Oxford (“eSports Commentators: Media roles, career labour, and game management”),
  • Min Xiao, University of Florida (“Camaraderie in the virtual battle arena: How violence shapes a sense of camaraderie among games”) and
  • Tobias Scholz Universität Siegen (“The transformation of the eSports landscape – The clash of traditional and disruptive businesses”).

As fitting for eSports both tracks were livestreamed and can be found here


This panel legitimized the quest of eSports-research as academic discipline. Special thanks to Tobias, who chaired the academic panel and organized the eSports-track.

Two personal remarks:

First, IMMAA has a chance to prove its potential to be innovative and must intensify eSports as specific field of expertise and experience. Its uniqueness led to a novel environment that is relevant to research as it may give a glimpse to a potential future of media management research. Consequently, it is essential to understand this industry in its unique intersection of media, sport, and technology.

Second, while after the IMMAA 2018 media management theory pays attention to eSports, the eSports organizations is well advised to pay attention to Media Management Theory in order to run their business even better and to create even more fun.

Looking forward to the next IMMAA-track on eSports.

January 30.,  2019: