When you think of eSports broadcasting in South Africa, the first thing you think of is probably nAvTV. The second thing you think is probably, what on earth does nAvTV stand for? Well we’re going to share with you all the info you could ever need, and possibly more, on South Africa’s biggest eSports broadcasting house, nAvTV. And we’ll tell you where they’re name came from.
We were exceptionally lucky to be able to chat to one of the founding fathers, Nathaneal ‘BurningRed’ Slabbert about the motivation behind the business, building an eSports company and growing the local scene.
So, where did it all begin?
“I come from Fish Hoek, a small town in Cape Town. We had a gaming clan there at the time. Well, a couple of mates who used to play a lot of games. We started to go to Organised Chaos.
At the time we didn’t really have a name for the team until a friend of mine was sitting in front of his computer randomly playing StarCraft. Out of the blue he started commenting about an abbreviation as a company in StarCraft that does mining. He basically commented, ‘At nAv Co, at the frontier of mining technologies, we can do anything.’
I turned around and said, ‘Dude, that’s such a cool name for a clan. Let’s call ourselves nAv Co.'”
And so an organisation that has nothing to do with mining was born.
“For three years I kind of backed off from gaming, I committed most of my time to my working career. I moved to Johannesburg in 2010 and decided to reignite the nAv name, under the name of nAv Gaming. I built this really big online clan, which had about 300 players. That went on for about three to four years.
And then in late 2013, after attending the first CS:GO Telkom DGC at rAge, I decided to get into broadcasting. I also thought it was the end of my gaming career – I was getting old and I couldn’t put as much time in as the other guys could.
From there on I thought about a name. I initially dubbed it nAv Gaming TV.”
From a small, friend-based clan with a really arbitrary name in Fish Hoek, to a 300+ online clan, to a broadcasting organisation. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
“At that time I was not aware of any other broadcasting talents in South Africa, besides Alastair ‘Lag_Beast’ Bearman and David ‘Pacman’ Harrison, who were just doing it for fun, because no one was really putting any effort into it. And they were really good.
I started to cast CS:GO on my own, and then I started to see the potential of making something out of this. Not money wise, but at least from a reputation point of view, becoming a well-known eSports personality basically in the CS:GO scene.”
Remember kids, if it’s easy money you’re looking for, South African eSports is probably not the place for you. At least not yet. BurningRed has been waiting a long, long time. And he’s still working his ass off. But more on that later, back to the foundation years.
“I contacted one of the current directors of nAvTV, DeWet ‘Ridditz’ Lombard-Bovéy, to join the nAv Gaming TV idea. At the time he was playing for nAv Gaming in the Dota team. He was one of the first casters to join the organisation.
From there, together we re-branded it as nAvTV eSports Broadcasting. At the same time we had Devin ‘HellbirD’ Rigotti join us.
I already had Miles Regenass, and in the background he was keeping an eye on the shoutcasters, because at the time he was managing some overseas Battlefield shoutcasters. He started to see the potential with the South African guys and he started to give me ideas to get more casters involved and create an organisation as well. Miles then officially joined nAvTV as senior management.
Adam ‘wHaM’ Postepski is a CS:GO caster, but also a chartered accountant. He also joined navTV at the time and was put into a senior position because of his skill set, being able to deal with finances.”
So some casters, a marketing manager, and a chartered accountant walk into a bar. And start a gaming broadcasting business together. Sick.
“From there on we got the company registered: nAvTV eSports Broadcasting. We actually found a proper name for it: Never Announce Victory. That’s what nAv stands for. And it suits the shoutcasting idea.”
Yes, we told you. Their name is not actually entirely random. And its meaning is some pretty damn good advice. A games is never over until the throne is dead, the nexus has exploded, the payload has been delivered or the final round is won.
“So then it proceeded to become a bigger entity when we had more shoutcasters join. Younger guys that were interested in getting involved in shoutcasting. We started to educate them on how to shoutcast, how to produce their own streams at a basic level, how to present themselves at events and get involved at events.
From there on we did the 2014 DGC event. We also did Liberty LAN during that time. We did the rAge Dota tournament. Then we moved into 2015 and we started to pick up more business because people wanted to use shoutcasters to cover their games. We had the likes of Orena using us to shoutcast Dota and CS:GO. And then we did the Mortal Kombat X tournament, which was with HellbirD and Ridditz. They travelled across the country to do the qualifiers. We did DGC 2015. We did the Heroes of the Storm competition in 2015.
And then in between there were various other tournaments that I did personally, overseas tournaments. ESL Cologne was one of them. The qualifiers from the northern, eastern, western and southern regions. I didn’t get the opportunity to go cast at ESL, but I had the opportunity to go coach an Indian team.
That’s how nAvTV kind of grew from an idea into something that is quite well put together today.”
Personally, we love how chilled BurningRed sounds about the growth of nAvTV, as if it just happened by mistake, and overnight. But, of course, you don’t need us to tell you that it was anything but easy.
“From a business perspective, I would say for at least the first quarter of the initial start-up of nAvTV it was more of a very gentle transition into a business. That’s when we sat down and said, ‘Okay, guys, now we’re gonna chase this.’ Essentially we saw the opportunity to start building the eSports industry.”
Definitely not easy. In fact, extremely difficult. And starting out you’re always going to have people judging your actions and criticising your motives. nAvTV is no exception.
“People have this perception that the nAvTV directors are milking the industry, trying to make as much money as possible out of it. The thing is that’s completely incorrect. What we actually do, as a business, is bill for services.
Let’s say Bob wants to host a tournament in Johannesburg. That caster stays in Joburg, but he stays 40kms away. The caster needs to pay for the petrol to get to the venue. He needs to pay for his own food. He needs to pay for his own accommodation if he can’t get back home in time. Effectively, there’s quite a bill that fits behind it. In certain cases up to R5,000/R6,000 for a weekend just for a casters expenses.
The casters get paid a decent rate. It’s not just about getting paid to go to the event; it’s also about making it sustainable for shoutcasting in South Africa.”
That last bit right there? That is possibly the most important piece of information you could take away from this whole thing. And that is exactly what drives the guys at nAvTV. Casting is a tough job, and it isn’t exactly the most rewarding right now.
“You’ll have a caster who puts a lot effort in for the first six, seven, eight months. He does a phenomenal job, but then unfortunately it dies down. That’s where he thinks, “Is this really worth it? I’ve got 100 viewers tuning in every now and then. I don’t really get the recognition like the international guys are getting, and I’m really putting all this effort in.”
Essentially what happens is that shoutcaster dies down and drops the ball and says no, he’s just going to carry on with life and that’s it. That can happen between two to six months of a shoutcasters so called career. So the reason we start to do the whole thing of ‘we’re a business and we bill for the shoutcasters’ and so forth is to sustain that. To enable the shoutcasters to earn something out of this in a South African market and also keep their interest there. Because if they’re very good, they can continue like this and become better so that they get picked up on an international level.”
There’s a metric ton of passion being put in by the guys at nAvTV, and they do certainly have their hearts in the right places. If anyone, and it doesn’t matter who, can get it to a place where it can potentially be a career for local casters, then we’ll back them every step of the way.
If you’ve ever looked at joining the nAvTV team, we’re sure you would have seen the long list of talent featured on the team page on their website. And you’ve possibly thought, “Flip, how am I going to fit into a place that already has so many people?”
“How the casters work: nAvTv operates as an agency as well. So you know your model agency, for instance, they go find work for you, negotiate your fee and speak to the client on your behalf. It’s the same thing for the shout casters.
We have a portfolio of shout casters and if the client says who they want, we give them who they want. If they don’t know who they want, we recommend who they need. So, from an agency perspective, that’s what we do as well.
We’ve also got the production side, which is kind of the new division to nAvTV, which we are building up at the moment and does the event management, the production itself, event co-ordination, all that kind of stuff.”
So don’t be discouraged by the long list of current and rising stars. Rather think of them as your future colleagues. Your next co-host. Your next MC. But you’d better use some brainpower if you do want to apply to join the team.
“There are a lot of applications, but in the application we want to see a show reel or some sort of content to actually decide if they are great or not, and a lot of the casters don’t do that.
The problem is if the casters don’t do that, we don’t know how to make our decision. So they automatically fall into a pool of people that we will look into if we need to, but we focus on the guys that actually do provide the content.
The selection criteria are quite interesting as well. We have a couple of guys that actually sit and look at the content and discuss: Are the casters actually worthwhile, do they show potential? Ya, they do. Okay, great, let’s bring them on board and we bring them into the academy first.
We have a small academy for any caster available. If they get in, then they’ve got a couple of steps to follow before they get into the official caster roster.
The thing is, we don’t ever shun people away, that’s not our business. We keep them in the academy and we keep on training them because we believe every person that is in the academy and puts in the effort will eventually get into the casting roster.”
So, don’t just send them a 1-page CV or a one liner saying, “Hey, I wana be a caster, can I cast for you?” followed by a series of smiley face emojis. Show them what you can do with a showreel, and make it good.
As well as being approached by potential employees, the dream for any organisation in the history of ever is to be approached by brands or potential partners without having to lift a finger. But like everything else in this game, that takes time.
It’s a non-stop battle for BurningRed and the nAvTV crew. As well as constantly searching for new partners, they’re also relentlessly working on expanding their equipment base.
“One of the biggest challenges has been funding, specifically for broadcast level equipment.
There hasn’t been a project yet, and the directors will back me on this, that we have not needed something. That’s kind of been the challenge. We rock up with all the kit and we think, ‘Okay, cool, we can just put it down and go’. And then we realise, ‘Oh wait, we need a 30/40 metre cable. Okay, we have to go buy cables. Oh no wait, we need an extra camera. Okay, where are we going to get the funding for this?’
The thing is, every single penny that we’ve made thus far – besides obviously paying for the casters and the talent and production staff and admins – we’ve taken all that cash and literally put it back into the business to try and increase our equipment level, so that when we get to that stage when we have to do a very top-level broadcast, we’ve got the correct equipment to do it. And we’ve got the staffing to back it.”
It’s very likely that the struggle will never end, especially if they want to reach their lofty aims of putting on an event on par with the ESL and SLTV.
“It’s quite funny, when people sit down and watch an event, they watch the game, but nAvTV guys sit down and they watch the actual event. They want to see the production value that’s being pushed out and they want to try and match it. That’s literally every single director at nAvTV. They look at it from that perspective.
The look, the feel, the lighting. We’ve kind of worked from the basics first, which is our sound – I think sound is key – and now we’re starting to step in with the video. We’re going forward. Every single time.
That’s the key, because if we do that, if we achieve that television quality, guys locally – like SuperSport – will see the value there and think, ‘Okay, cool, we can use your content.'”
The dream. Switching over to SuperSport 12, let’s be realistic it’s not going to be one of the single figure SuperSport channels, and watching local gamers in action.
Of course, we had to try our luck and ask BurningRed if there were any rad projects in the making that he could tell us about.
“We are busy working with some big partners to bring even bigger events onto the stage, but obviously those partners I can’t mention. We have got bigger plans already in the pipeline.”
Dammit. We tried. Really. What we did manage to get was a whole load of info on the upcoming Evetech Champions League, which we’ll be telling you all about next week. For now, we’ll leave you with this:
“The ECL at the moment is our latest project that we’ve just kicked off. Evetech and nAvTV have invested quite a lot into this idea and this project. There are going to be more events with ECL, it’s not a once off thing.”
Well. There you have it, folks. Possibly everything you ever wanted to know about nAvTV. And what a journey they’ve had. And are having right now. And, by the looks of things, this train won’t be stopping any time soon.