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INTERVIEW: Angela Bernhard Thomas Discusses ESPORTSU

Angela Bernhard Thomas

Collegiate Sports Management Group (“CSMG”), an integrated sports and entertainment media company focused on esports and traditional sports in the new creator economy, is launching ESPORTSU, its esports brand aimed at building community, content, and events across the scholastic esports environment, according to an official press release.

ESPORTSU will enhance the property rights of more than 3,000 academic institutions (high schools to two- and four-year colleges) to support content development, revenue opportunities, and exposure through regional and national events. The launch will also include the debut of their new 24/7 twitch channel that will air collegiate content – including daily matches across all game titles from ESPORTSU’s conference partners, collegiate esports talk shows, student-produced programming, community events, charity streams, international collegiate content, live and virtual events, collegiate awards show, and educational panels

The ESPORTSU brand is being led by Angela Bernhard Thomas (Executive Vice President), a decorated veteran in the entertainment and esports industry, and I had a chance to speak with her about CSMG’s new initiative and what it entails.

“ESPORTSU is about the students” Thomas said in an exclusive interview. “In collegiate esports, we always hear reference to a conference, a school, a program, a coach or a team. But no one really focuses directly on the needs and desires of the students. This speaks directly not only to our core values but drives our business strategy as well.

“Our events, content and engagement style are all geared to what and how students like to consume esports content.

ESPORTSU will take that a step further by supporting student led productions. We are celebrating and elevating this content creator economy by giving real life, tangible production support, education and opportunity at the scholastic level. Students are hungry for this.

Everyday, we will air six hours of live content and another six of new content. We have a very efficient system for doing this because of our conference partners and the vast amount of content created through regular season play every day. We are just aggregating the best of it and raising the production value with great talent, broadcast graphics packages and the stories behind the students. That at least gives us a singular destination to build community around and create a home for brands to become part of that story. There’s no secret sauce here, it’s just in the doing that we can insert ourselves in the market in a credible way.”

Thomas also spoke about the importance for ESPORTSU to broadcast on Twitch, and how the Amazon streaming platform is vital to their strategy.

“We are on Twitch because that’s where our community is” Thomas says. “We are a Twitch student partner and offer a support program to our member schools to have the same partner benefits. Through this system we aggregate data. If you take all our schools and aggregate their viewership, at the end of the year you’ve got surprising results. We’re planning other content outside of our long form streaming content on Twitch that’s designed specifically for different platforms and their audiences.

We must be on every platform. And if someone likes our content on multiple platforms, that’s an exponential benefit.”

Thomas, a decorated veteran within the Esports landscape, recognizes the industry has some core issues that may be capping growth and potential expansion opportunities for both esports teams and esports players.

“Esports is a long game” Thomas explains. “You must be resourced with the right strategic partnerships and alliances across the entire ecosystem. You have to be able to pivot and be fiscally responsible.

Another issue is that premium video content doesn’t monetize in a premium way. But for most, esports media rights monetization is an uphill battle. It doesn’t really matter if you have the best content out there. There’s lots of high-end production being accomplished in the space, so the bar is always high. Low quality, high frequency content is very popular in this era. So, you have to do both to stay in the game” Thomas said.

“Publishers still hold a great deal of control over the ability of organizers, league operators and entrepreneurs to maximize what revenue streams we do have. Let’s hope that continues to evolve and reveal new models. We feel that ESPORTSU is extremely well positioned to grow the entire collegiate ecosystem because our model focuses on exposure, revenue and content.

The other uphill battle is that the content is difficult for mainstream audiences to follow. Games require a deep understanding of game meta, and the most effective tactics. It’s hard to package that in a way that appeals to a mainstream audience. That’s why everyone loves Rocket League. “

Thomas also stresses the importance of utilizing marketing strategies that include things such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO or Esports SEO) and Internet Marketing, and how it is a part of ESPORTSU’s strategy moving forward.

“I would say it’s critical” she said of SEO and Internet Marketing. “We are working on a new website now and implementing a myriad of enhancements to maximize ROI.”

“We will look to the community to help us refine our story across all digital media. It’s like we’re an iceberg. Standing on top and waving a big flag. Above the water line is easily visible, but it’s what’s beneath the iceberg that really drives us as humans. Those are the stories we want to tell, and we believe that people want to hear. It’s a priority to do our best at that in a genuine way.”

ESPORTSU is looking to make a strong position in the landscape, “building the framework serving the long-term success of collegiate esports through a spirit of collaboration and alliances.”

CENC hosted by ESPORTSU will take place on May 6-8, 2022, bringing together the best collegiate esports teams for the first time in Atlanta, GA. The all-inclusive collegiate esports event will gather collegiate esports athletes from across the United States to battle in multiple game titles for the chance to be crowned a national winner.

For the latest updates on ESPORTSU content, tournaments, and events, please follow the brand on Twitch and Twitter.

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