Feeling the Twitch: A look inside La Jolla’s hub for video-game streaming
Online Performers Group (OPG), a San Diego-based talent management group, moved to La Jolla earlier in 2019
Sitting at a 60-inch-wide computer screen, Online Performers Group (OPG) CEO Omeed Dariani monitors a video game player named Cohh Carnage as he narrates his process playing “Visage” on a live stream.
On this particular Thursday morning, Dariani is one of 9,485 people watching Carnage. But, on any given day, tens of thousands of people will check in on him as he plays on the live streaming web platform Twitch.
And this scenario isn’t playing out in Silicon Valley, but in OPG’s office in La Jolla, as part of the $150 billion video-game streaming industry.
With the influx of celebrity video-game players and streaming on Twitch that has been growing steadily since 2012, these players need representation to ensure they are treated — and paid — fairly.
Enter OPG, a San Diego-based talent management group that moved to La Jolla earlier this year, run by Dariani and his wife Jennifer.
“These players are like celebrities, actors or athletes, but didn’t have any of the representation or support structure traditional celebrities have, and they were getting taken advantage of pretty massively,” Dariani said.
“I witnessed that happening, and I wondered how hard it would be to set up and give these folks the services they need.”
The talent management firm started as a hobby, and now has 20 employees. Most operate out of the La Jolla office, with others in Reno, the UK and on the East Coast. In total, OPG manages 70 “content creators” and gamers that stream on Twitch.
“Twitch is like YouTube, but on YouTube people record videos and people watch them. Twitch is live, and there are thousands of people broadcasting live, mostly playing video games,” Dariani explained. “So here we have Cohh Carnage, you can see him; and you can see the game he is playing. There is also a chat function, so people can ask him a question and he can answer.”
Some players specialize in one game, others play different games, and each has his or her own audiences and sponsors.
“There are a lot of reasons people watch other people play video games,” Dariani said. “It’s mostly for entertainment. Some are really good at one game, like an athlete. When you want to watch someone be really great at basketball, you watch LeBron James. Some people are the LeBron James of whatever game they play. So you watch how they play so you can play better.
“Some guys play different games all the time. And some people like the thinking these players bring. Some people get their news from ‘The Daily Show,’ others from Rush Limbaugh. You want their take. With some of these players, if they like the game, you will probably like the game, and will probably buy it. Some people watch because it is generally entertaining.”
And like other forms of entertainment, when executed correctly, video games can be incredibly lucrative. Credited as being a $150 billion industry, Dariani said gaming is bigger than movies and music combined.
“Millions of people are watching Twitch every day,” he said. “These guys are the most important way these companies are getting the word out about what is new and popular. We did the math once, and some of our biggest clients make more per hour than Tom Cruise on a movie set.”
Switching to another Twitch channel, Dariani points out a player named Sacriel who — at that moment — had 27,000 people watching him play a video game. “He is our biggest client in England.”
Sacriel is known for being very good at shooting games, and interspersing his narration with tea etiquette notes and explaining British words. He is personally sponsored by companies such as Intel.
Other sponsors with which OPG works include 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Warner Brothers, Amazon, Coke, Mountain Dew, Old Spice, Sega and Taco Bell.
“People are starting to realize these gamers have audiences that love them and what they do. And these audiences aren’t coming out of a marketing machine,” Dariani said.
And to help the streamers reach these audiences, OPG has two micro-studios in the La Jolla office from which streamers occasionally broadcast. One client is from northern California, but couldn’t conduct a live stream because his power was cut.
“The last two days were huge for him because the game he plays the most had a big update, so thousands of people wanted to watch him. So he flew down and used our studio,” Dariani said. “He broadcasted 20 hours over the last two days and left this morning.”
In the past, OPG has done talk shows for Amazon, and hosted rapper T-Pain for interviews.
So, for those children who play hours of video games at home, here’s some advice from the pros: “While there might be a future in the industry,” Dariani cautioned, “like any talent-based field, you might not be good enough. Just because I want to be an actor, doesn’t mean I’m going to be a famous actor.
“This is hard work. These streamers work 10-12 hours a day, with a full team supporting them. And you can be good at it, but still not succeed. But for those who do succeed, it can be a great living.”
• ON THE WEB: To learn more about Online Performers Group, visit opg.tv