Beasley Media Group is reaching young audiences with a novel strategy for a radio broadcasting organization — investing in competitive video gaming.

In 2017, the team at Beasley Media Group had a goal to reach young people. In its quest to figure out how to do so, the radio broadcaster quickly learned that esports – organized, competitive video gaming – were becoming increasingly important to the NextGen consumer.

“Younger consumers around the world…are heavily invested in video gaming,” said Lori Burgess, chief operating officer for Beasley’s esports division. “And we really saw an opportunity to get very, very immersed in this space and start to attract and develop these relationships with younger consumers when they’re forming their decisions about what matters most to them.”

The group started by acquiring Checkpoint XP, a weekly syndicated esports lifestyle show, in September 2018 — a natural extension of traditional radio. Checkpoint, which broadcasts on over 70 radio stations in North America through Sun Broadcast Group, truly serves as the voice of esports, covering a host of shows about different video games, from Fortnite, a wildly popular survival game, to NBA 2K, a series of basketball video games, and many more.

Then, on the one-year anniversary of the Checkpoint XP acquisition, Beasley launched Checkpoint XP On Campus. The goal was to speak more directly to college campus communities, engaging both people deeply immersed in the video-gaming community as well as those who might not know much about it yet. They launched Checkpoint XP On Campus in tandem with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the company is now producing about eight shows each week with a variety of target audiences in mind. 

While this was all happening, Beasley saw that the esports community was continuing to grow at a rapid pace, particularly with the rise of professional video game teams. So they decided it was time to take things to the next level. “And how better to understand the business than being in it ourselves?” asked Burgess. Beasley started small, by making a minor investment in Team Renegades, a professional esports franchise based in Detroit. Following that, an opportunity soon presented itself in the fall of 2019 to acquire the Houston Outlaws, one of 20 Overwatch teams based around the world. Overwatch is a team-based, first-person shooter game.

Beasley jumped at the chance, and these acquisitions have presented the company with great opportunities for synergy. “We’ve got Checkpoint XP and Checkpoint XP On Campus that are covering all the major games, the Overwatch game being one of them,” Burgess said. “And so we have an opportunity to bring the hosts, the credible experts from Checkpoint, into situations where the Outlaws are involved, where we can really benefit from that.”

In January 2020, Beasley presented a panel discussion for up-and-coming players at PAX South, a video gaming and esports trade show in Texas. The host was Robbie Landis, Checkpoint’s resident Overwatch specialist, and existing players and coaches shared their experiences and knowledge. “Here we were able to take the expertise of Checkpoint, the way a radio station would, with a sports host, and put them in a panel discussion with some of the top players that have lots of interesting stories and experiences to share with consumers,” Burgess explained.

Burgess believes the future of esports is massive — she thinks it will become a global phenomenon, and soon. “It started out as a subculture experience, and it is becoming pop culture right before our eyes,” she said, adding, “Do you remember when snowboarding started out and people were like, ‘What’s that all about?’ Esports is exactly like that. It’s just much, much bigger.”

With that in mind, Burgess and the Beasley team don’t plan on putting a stop to their expansion anytime soon. “I think this sport has tremendous potential for all of us that are invested in this space,” Burgess said. “It is maturing very, very quickly, and with over a billion dollars being invested in esports by consumers and marketers around the world, it has the potential to become the sports entertainment industry of the planet.”