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Modern Times

By July 26, 2017 No Comments

Robert Stephens 

This week we take a peek at the rise of digital snooping, the welfare state of Ontario, and the phenomenon of esports. Read on …

Digital divide

Source: YouGov

If you’re snooping on your partner’s digital correspondence, you’re not alone. According to a survey by YouGov, about one-quarter of those in a relationship admit to spying on their significant other’s texts, emails and social media accounts at least once a week.

Among millennials the number is even higher, with about a third breaking into their partner’s private communications without permission.

Smart phones contain huge amounts of personal information, and couples are sneaking into each other’s data to see if there are any secret lovers or pining exes they have to worry about.

Even worse, when this lack of trust ultimately leads to a breakup, 33% of millennials end the relationship over the phone or via text message rather than in person.

Money for nothin’

Last Spring, Premier Kathleen Wynne launched a pilot project to study the impact of providing a guaranteed basic income to Ontario residents. Aimed primarily at the working poor, the program provides no-strings-attached annual subsidies of up to $17,000 per person or $24,000 per couple.

Will the three-year study lead to a permanent program? And will Ontario’s experiment cause other provinces to jump on the bandwagon? One estimate puts the cost of a national basic income plan at more than $30 billion a year.

What do Canadians think of government handing out cheques to everyone below a certain income level? Research by Ipsos has found that public opinion toward basic income is lukewarm at best – 44% are in favour, 31% are opposed, and 24% aren’t sure.

On the positive side, a majority believe that basic income would help alleviate poverty and allow people to spend more time with their families.

On the negative side, a majority of Canadians also believe that providing a basic income would make people reliant on the state, discourage seeking employment, and ultimately increase taxes to unaffordable levels.

Premier Wynne argues that the economy has been so fundamentally altered – by globalization, automation, and the loss of manufacturing – that government wage assistance is now a necessity. In her view, poverty is now a permanent condition for a large segment of the population.

No longer a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ari-o.

Big league gaming

What exactly is esports? It is professional video gaming, with elite players and teams competing in tournaments around the world. Huge venues sell out in hours. And the very best gamers are teenagers signing lucrative sponsorship deals and earning millions in prize money.

Newzoo estimates that esports will approach $700 million in revenue this year, and is on track to become a $1.5 billion business by 2020.


Brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Samsung, Nissan, Intel, American Express, and Nvidia and are pouring millions of dollars into advertising, sponsorship, and media rights. And the fan base is expanding exponentially with audience numbers closing in on 300 million.

Viewers are mostly young millennial males – although female numbers are growing. Through esports, brands are gaining access to a demographic that is notoriously difficult to reach via traditional media.

Total hours viewed in the genre exceeded 6 billion globally in 2016. According to HIS Markit, online viewing is driving the market, accounting for more than 85% of time spent watching esports. China is by far the largest market, accounting for 57% of all viewing last year. North America is the second-largest market.

Twitch (acquired by Amazon in 2014) is the dominant live streaming platform, although traditional media channels like ESPN and TBS are making an esports push to attract young viewers.

Some of the major companies driving the growth are Activision Blizzard (its titles include Call of Duty, Starcraft and Overwatch, and last year it acquired Major League Gaming),  Riot Games (League of Legends publisher and tournament organizer, owned by Tencent Holding), and Valve (publisher of Dota 2 and organizer of the International competition).

League of Legends World Championships at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin.

Signs that this market is exploding? The NBA plans to launch its own esports league next year … stadiums dedicated to pro video gaming are being built … universities are now offering scholarships to esports ‘athletes’ … the University of British Columbia has gaming teams that compete in League of Legends and Dota … one of the top players, Canadian Kurtis Ling, has earned close to $2 million in prize money … Canadian motion picture firm Cineplex has invested $15 million to acquire an esports company and create its own gaming league.

Esports is a worldwide phenomenon, and savvy marketers are getting onboard.

As always, we welcome your comments. Reach us on Facebook or tweet us @PRPOSTINGS.



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