Enthusiast Gaming is a Canadian digital media company that specialises in video game journalism and esports. It was founded in 2014 by Menashe Kestenbaum, it owns the websites Destructoid and Escapist Magazine, as well the gaming convention Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo.


GAMING MEDIA

The company engages with a community of 300m monthly gamers through a series of websites, YouTube channels, influencers, events and esports organisations. It generates over 4.2B views each month.

“[…] boosting its reach to a total of 300 million gamers monthly and making it the largest gaming media platform in North America […]” Christina Settimi for Forbes

It grows by developing original content and new concepts but also by acquiring competing websites, gaming teams and partnering with influencers. Today, the company disposes of a full-suite of video game outlets:

  • 100 websites (Destructoid, Daily eSports, The Escapist, Nintendo Enthusiasts)
  • 1,000 YouTube Channels (The Squad, Arcade Cloud)
  • A professional gaming team called Luminosity Gaming (747,000 subscribers on YouTube versus 2.3m for TSM, one of the largest gaming teams)
  • 500 gaming influencers, gamers and content creators
  • An esports expo gathering 12m online viewers

FULL EXPERIENCE

Instead of developing and selling its own games, Enthusiast Gaming’s products are centred around the fan experience. The company is betting that it can deliver value to players by providing the content and media they want to consume.

Enthusiast Gaming wants to corner the off-game experience and therefore provides the following possibilities to its users:

  1. Read an article or join a forum on one of their Websites
  2. Watch a YouTube video on one of their Channels
  3. Follow the professional teams
  4. Watch live streamed content from one of their I-influencers on their Twitch Channel
  5. Attend a live or virtual event to connect with other fans and custom activations like tournaments, merchandise, player and celebrities

Going forward, the company wants to become the leading media organisation and social network in gaming.

Gaming is the new social network, and we’re building it,” Enthusiast CEO Adrian Montgomery by Christina Settimi for Forbes


LARGE AND GROWING AUDIENCE

Enthusiast Gaming’s one-stop-shop solution makes it an increasingly attractive tool for brands targeting the Gen Z and millennial cohort.


BRAND SAFE PRODUCT FOR TIER-1 PARTNERS

Through its ensemble of brands, it is able to offer a brand safe advertising environment as ads are displayed in a gaming-first environment, minimising the risk of misalignment between page content and the advertiser’s message.

“For the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), brand safety is defined as keeping a brand’s reputation safe when they advertise online. In practice, this means avoiding placing ads next to inappropriate content.BannerFlow

Through its focus on gaming, Enthusiast Gaming is able to provide the brand safe environment advertisers look for when they want to reach the millennial and Gen Z cohort. Enthusiast Gaming is then able to leverage its media advertising, custom content, esports sponsorships and influencer marketing to fulfil its partner goals.

This leads TIER-1 companies interested in Enthusiast Gaming’s audience to advertise with them:

  • Amazon Studios
  • Snapchat
  • Twitch
  • Tik Tok
  • Gillette
  • Nintendo

The company recently signed a deal with Samsung to provide them with product placement and promotional activity with its influencers. Samsung will sponsor the Luminosity Gaming team and the Enthusiast Gaming expo.

“We are thrilled to announce Samsung as an Enthusiast gaming partner and to work with them across our suite of integrated media, esports and entertainment assets to create awareness and drive share for their leading PC offerings, exclusively designed for gamers.” Enthusiast CEO Adrian Montgomery from Gaming Street


MAKING MONEY

The company generates only 6% of its sales from esports and makes the bulk of its revenue from advertising contracts. In 2020, the company is expected to make $ 95m in sales which include $ 61m in revenue that is has to redistribute to its content creators.

Enthusiast Gaming has a 5-steps growth plan that is meant to create value by growing their audience while growing their Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) by selling subscriptions, licenses and apps.

1. Build Scale / Own the Fan Experience (ARPU of $ 0.4)

  • Enthusiast Gaming grew its audience to 300m gamers through its network of influencers, websites and live events

2. Monetise through Advertising (ARPU of $ 1)

  • The company monetised its audience exclusively through programmatic ads, which provided low CPMs
  • It now seeks to optimise its programmatic ads and boost its advertising revenue through direct sales

3. Sell Content (ARPU of $ 1.5)

  • It plans to increase its subscriptions and licensing revenues in order to generate an ARPU of $ 1.5
  • Today, it already counts 115,000 paying subscribers and is licensing its products to Snap and Samsung

4. Marketplace (ARPU of $ 2)

  • It plans to increase its ARPU to $ 2 by launching a marketplace and monetising its apps

5. Social (ARPU of $ 3)

  • In the last phase, Enthusiast Gaming plans to reach a $ 3 ARPU by offering social networks features

FUELLING GROWTH

Enthusiast Gaming is consolidating its market through a series of mergers and acquisitions. Most recently, it merged with Luminosity Gaming (which operates 7 esports teams) and it acquired Omnia Media for $ 34m.

  • Omnia Media’s produces over 30 weekly shows across AVOD and OTT channels
  • It represents over 500 YouTube influencers and counts over 90M unique viewers
  • Omnia Media’s 2019 sales increased 29% year-on-year and reached $ 59.9m

    “The purchase is a bargain find for Enthusiast, which has gobbled up 12 gaming companies in the last three years, including paying $20 million for The Sims Resource, one of the largest female gaming destinations. TSR is visited by over 2 million monthly […]”

    “Last August, Enthusiast merged with Luminosity Gaming, the operator of seven esports teams, including the Seattle Surge of the Call of Duty League and the Vancouver Titans of the Overwatch League, with over 70 million followers.Christina Settimi for Forbes

THE MARKET

The esports market is growing at over 20% per year over the 2020 - 2025 period, driven by increasing smartphone penetration, a reduction in the price of mobile internet and innovations such as cloud gaming.

1. According to Goldman Sachs, esports revenue is set to reach $ 3B by 2022

  • With prize pools expected to grow by a CAGR of 30% over the 2019 - 2024 period

2. According to Research And Markets, the esports market is set to grow by a CAGR of 20% over the 2020 - 2025 period and reach $3B

  • Driven by the growing popularity of esports on a global level and increasing game publishers support

3. According to Global Data, the video games market could reach $ 300B by 2025 up from $ 131B in 2018

  • Driven by the advent of mobile gaming, cloud gaming, virtual reality gaming and new payments model (in-game micro-payments) which boost spending

    “At the same time, new technologies like 5G, cloud, and virtual reality will usher in a new phase of innovation” - Ed Thomas, Global Data

4. According to Mordor Intelligence, the gaming market is set to go from $ 151B in 2019 to $ 257B by 2025

  • Growing by 9.2% a year over the 2020 - 2025 period
  • Driven by the upgrade cycle in consoles (Sony and Microsoft), the emergence of cloud gaming and the rise of esports

TAKE A BREATH

So… This is a lot of information. Let’s summarise:

  1. Enthusiast Gaming is a media company active in the gaming segment
  2. It develops internal brands, acquires websites, partners with influencers and merges with gaming teams to create the leading gaming media company
  3. It is betting that gamers want to consume gaming-related content once they stop playing and the company seeks to corner the off-game experience
  4. It now counts over 300m gamers and generates 4.2B monthly views at an ARPU of $ 0.4
  5. Enthusiast Gaming is acting as the consolidator in the gaming media segment and is driven by the segment’s underlying growth as the esports market is set to grow at over 20% per year over the 2020 - 2025 period
  6. Going forward, it plans to improve its audience’s monetization through subscription services and apps

FINANCIAL CHECK

  • Revenue was $ 16.3m, an increase of 133% compared to $ 7.0m in Q2
  • Pro forma (including the Omnia Media acquisition) revenue was $ 31.7m for Q3 2020, an increase of 17% compared to $ 27.2m in Q2
  • Gross margin decreased to 24.8% in Q3 2020 from 65.1% in Q3 2019 and reached $ 4.1m
  • Pro forma gross margin increased to 16.8% from 16.7% in Q2 and reached $ 5.3m
  • Operating expenses were $ 8.2m, an increase of 5% from $ 7.8m in Q3 2019
  • Pro forma operating expenses were $ 9.3m, an increase of 4% compared to $ 8.9m in Q2
  • Net loss and comprehensive loss for Q3 was $ 8.0m, compared to a loss of $ 16.1m in Q3 2019
  • Pro forma total views across written and video content were 10.6B for Q3, down from 12.5B in Q2
  • Company has $ 27.2m in current assets and $22.3m in current liabilities and $ 22m in long-term debt

BENCHMARK'S TAKE

The Good

  • Enthusiast Gaming is turning itself into the leading media company in the gaming sector
  • It is doing so by acquiring competitors, partnering with influencers and merging with leading gaming teams
  • The esports market is growing at a rapid pace and set to double in the coming 5 years, providing the organic market growth Enthusiast Gaming needs
  • Its one-stop-shop offering enables it to serve TIER-1 customers as Amazon, Snap, Tik Tok and Samsung

The Bad

  • Gross margins have sharply decreased in the past year and the company is significantly indebted, which may require the company to raise additional cash before it reaches profitability
  • The pandemic gave a boost to the gaming sector but negatively affected esports events, to which Enthusiast Gaming is exposed through its gaming teams and events

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Disclaimer

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