We talked to Mark F. Thimmig on how Esportz Network is a digital-first, fan-centric esports media company, developing industry partnerships globally and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mark F. Thimmig: I am very grateful for my family, and I have remained healthy and comfortable throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. We are fortunate to have a wonderful lakefront home to work from in Austin, Texas. Texas has also remained mostly open and free to move about, trusting people to be responsible and use good judgment with face masks and proper social distancing.
My schedule has remained just as full as before the Pandemic, starting at 5:30 AM and concluding at 6:30 PM. However, many in-person meetings are now taking place online. Overall, our agency team, located in the Irvine area and throughout the country and world, prefers to work from home and has continued to be highly productive.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Esportz Entertainment?
Mark F. Thimmig: I’ve been blessed to work for many highly successful entrepreneurs and corporate executives over the past 40 years across multiple industries. As one of the early team members of Auto Nation, where we took the company from $250 Million to $20 Billion in just three years, I learned a great deal. I deeply respected my co-workers for their expertise and admired Wayne Huizenga and Steve Berrard, both incredible mentors.
I founded Esportz Entertainment Corp./Esportz Network in February 2019 with a profound interest in both esports and the opportunity to build a leading media and entertainment company to serve the gaming community. I watched the industry develop in the 10+ years prior and felt the timing was right to enter the industry.
How does Esportz Entertainment innovate?
Mark F. Thimmig: My goal was to build a profitable company, so we took a hard look at the business news first and created an approach with great technology and professional freelance. Reporters gave us a strategic advantage and a global news organization of over 90 reporters, photographers, and videographers.
In the fall of 2019, we also became an esports partner of leading news organization Reuters for global esports and gaming coverage. In 2020, we expanded our Reuters relationship with a studio partnership focusing on their New York City, Times Square studio to launch our first major production, an exciting and unique talk show, The Gamer Hour.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mark F. Thimmig: First, I’d like to stress that this has been a terrible virus, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone while severely impacting the lives of many people and destroying large numbers of small businesses across the globe. My prayers go out to all of those affected by COVID-19.
From an esports business perspective, the Coronavirus Pandemic has been both positive and negative. We have seen a significant increase in esports and Gaming interest and gameplay activity on the positive side. Many people who had put aside Gaming years ago have returned to explore their gaming interests, and many new people have picked up Gaming for the first time.
Esports and Gaming are now very much a part of people’s lives today, and with the COVID restrictions, Gaming has become how people are socializing and keeping up with friends and family.
On the negative side, COVID has made it more challenging to secure new funding. Many investors have pulled back, seeking more established companies for investment, and in some cases, waiting to see how the market develops. However, we see this as a temporary challenge and expect considerable investment interest in 2021 for companies like ours with proven revenues and significant industry credentials.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mark F. Thimmig: We have always been a very thoughtful company given my many years in business. So, we take time to make decisions that have served us well. In each situation where hiring and investment are involved, we thoroughly assess the alternatives and technological solutions first and then move forward as appropriate.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Mark F. Thimmig: I love my work, which leaves little time for stress and anxiety. I also have a great wife and family, which I enjoy spending time each day. I never stop thinking about what else we can do or what we can do to improve, which is relaxing for me.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mark F. Thimmig: Competitors are everywhere in the news and entertainment business. We stay in the game by being excellent at what we do and always striving to improve. We also prefer to go our way as innovators and not copy or follow others.
The Gamer Hour is an excellent example of that on the TV programming side of our business. We selected Chris Puckett, one of the top broadcasters in the esports world, to host our show. Chris interviews celebrities across traditional sports, Music, Comedy, and Acting who also love to game and have large social media followings.
The show has been very successful, with Instagram video and YouTube views topping 1.3 Million for the first seven shows in total. We are currently delivering the show through 53 media platforms, including Fite, TV, and actively seeking additional sponsors. Our current show sponsors are leading gaming audio and accessory providers Turtle Beach®, its Hamburg, Germany-based PC brand, ROCCAT®, and clothing company H4X. They have been great to work with. Several new shows are also under development for 2021 and will also provide the broader gaming audience with some great entertainment.
We also saw the benefits of podcasting early on and have developed three industry-leading podcasts, The Esports Minute, a daily 2-minute recap of the top stories, The Esports Network Podcast, 30-to 40-minute interviews with leading figures in the esports and gaming industry, and more recently, The Esports College Quick Take, a daily overview on the College esports industry featuring a one day of deep dive with a leading College industry figure. Our podcasts are distributed on 20 streaming platforms reaching hundreds of thousands of listeners.
Your final thoughts?
Mark F. Thimmig: We are excited and optimistic about the prospects for exponential growth ahead in the esports industry. Esports and Gaming are here to stay, and the sooner big brands embrace the opportunities companies like ours offer, the more they will benefit, and the faster the industry will grow.