Subnation and IMGN Create Lifestyle Content for Gamers

Three series are planned to offer experience beyond the action

Feeding the ever-expanding audience for gaming content, multimedia platform Subnation and media company IMGN have partnered to create three series that will be distributed primarily via IGTV. The goal is to create lifestyle content for gamers, premium series that reflect their interests.

The first series, called HQ, will bring viewers inside the coolest gaming facilities around. Viewers might get to see what’s happening in the Activision offices or visit a professional esports team’s house while they’re away practicing. It’s about showing the culture of gaming outside the action.

The second title, Level Up, is Pimp My Ride for gamers, giving in-home game stations a next-level makeover. It’s meant to be fun and surprising, gifting casual and semi-pro gamers with the hardware they need to up their games.

The third series is still to be determined. The producers are discussing a couple of concepts but haven’t decided which will really resonate with viewers. And they’re waiting to make a decision after they see how Level Up performs and they have some metrics to work from. Each of the planned series will have at least six episodes.

The link between Subnation and IMGN is Big Block Media Holdings, which has investments in both and focuses on sports and esports. Big Block made an early-stage investment in IMGN’s Series A round after being impressed with how quickly its team could pinpoint an audience and create content for it. And Subnation was created out of Big Block’s desire to feed the growing gaming community.

Big Block Media’s Seven Volpone expects partnerships to be added for both live events and online series that resonate with viewers.

“A lot of people just started to rush into esports, and they really didn’t understand it from a gut level, really understanding what makes the players tick, what makes the people who watch the players tick,” says Big Block Media CEO Seven Volpone. “People were starting to approach it more from a brand perspective or a sports perspective, straight up trying to make it almost like ESPN content. How can I follow a team? We realized that the people who were gaming were also the kids standing on line to get a limited pair of sneakers from Supreme or the kids waiting for a limited piece of street art.”

IGTV may seem like an odd choice for distribution since Instagram’s long-form content division hasn’t exactly taken off, but there’s a good reason for it: getting more than 2 billion views per month on Instagram, IMGN has built up a sizable following on that platform. Putting videos where viewers already are is a better strategy than trying to lure them to a new platform. IMGN’s series will likely expand to other platforms in the future, but, first, the creators want to see what kind of reactions they get.

Plans Target More Than Content
Another action item for the future is sponsorships. The series will debut without sponsors, but sponsors will be included at some point as long as the integration feels authentic. Rather than sticking a commercial between segments, Volpone would like to see partnerships added for both live events and online series in a way that creates content that resonates with viewers. Red Bull does it right, he says, putting the brand out there in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the viewers and isn’t just about getting the logo on the screen.

As the series start up, the metric that matters is audience size, and the producers will be paying a lot of attention to growth. The target is 1 million views per episode. The audience is judge and jury, Volpone says: number of views will tell the producers everything they need to know about whether they’re on target.

Beyond these series, Subnation has a lot planned. It will run activations at E3 this year and will work with music festivals that have esports and gaming areas. The company has also entered into a partnership with Volcom focusing on original apparel for esports fans. And, although it’s too early to name names, it’s working with a major retailer — one Volpone says is in every mall in the country — to create an in-store gaming experience. As for Big Block, it just hired a director (Rylee Jean Ebsen, former in-house creative director for Snap) to help drive its projects.

If that sounds like a lot of different areas, that’s by design. Subnation and Big Block are testing the waters, waiting to see what gets a response.

“We’re still looking at ourselves almost like a tech company even though we’re a content company,” Volpone says. “We’re in an experimental phase where we’re trying to take some rifle shots on figuring out some verticals to build connection and some distribution with the audience.”

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