U.K. Government Commits Research Funding to Esports

The U.K. Government’s Research and Innovation group has awarded a major grant to the Weavr Consortium to investigate esports broadcasting and viewing experiences.

The Weavr Consortium is comprised of esports organizer ESL, York University, dock10, Cybula, and Focal Point VR & Rewind. The UKRI committed £4 million ($5.13 million) toward the full £5.8 million ($7.44 million) cost of the two-year research project.

“The U.K. esports industry is growing rapidly, and ESL U.K. are right at the heart of its expansion,” said Margot James, the U.K. minister for digital and creative industries, in a statement. “I’m excited to see how the Weavr project will create innovative and immersive experiences for esports fans across the globe, helping to get them even closer to the live action.”

Weavr will explore new visualizations, statistics, and data driven stories as well as the ability for fans to toggle between physical and virtual viewing to enhance the broadcast experience. AI and deep learning will be used to help personalize content.

“At the forefront of an emerging and rapidly growing esports industry, we’re in a very fortunate and unique position to have insight in the live viewing habits and interactivity of young, tech savvy and early adopting audiences,” said ESL U.K. Managing Director James Dean in a statement. “We’re ecstatic to be working alongside industry leaders across the Weavr consortium to pave the way for the next generation of immersive technology and, with UKRI’s support, to realize a framework for the future of live entertainment and sports.” 

The news release reported that 2.6 billion hours of esports content was consumed around the world via Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms, with 80 percent of the demographic in the 18-to-35 age range.

SportTechie Takeaway

The esports industry is rapidly growing, but this is among the first such involvements at the level of national government outside of Asia. Such formal recognition by the U.K. research council should continue to fuel the esports market, although this grant pales compared to the $100 million that Intel and the ESL have already pledged.