Commentators (or shoutcasters, aka casters) are a key part of esports and can really bring matches to life. We look at the role and ask respected British caster and host Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner for his advice to prospective casters…
What is a caster?
A shoutcaster is another name for a commentator, who will speak over the action to inform and entertain the viewer.
Casters will need good knowledge of the game and teams they are casting, to offer personality and bring a match to life.
There are two types of casters: play-by-play casters (who provide running on-the-fly commentary) and colour casters (who provide supplementary information or comment, usually following a noteworthy moment in a game).
Casters usually sit at a desk. Stage hosts, on the other hand, usually act as the main presenter of a tournament, introduce teams and may be required to interview players and other experts, like a TV presenter.
There can be crossover between casters and hosts, and different tournaments may utilise different formats.
Experienced British caster and host, Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner, explains: “It’s about putting the show together and bringing the best out of the people who are on the panel.
“Caster and host have different skills but they’re a similar kind of experience. That said, a great analyst doesn’t necessarily make a great stage host, and vice versa.
How to become a caster or host
With broadcasting platforms like Twitch and YouTube, and grassroots event providers like the National University Esports League, it’s easier than ever to start casting.
British caster and host Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner got into shoutcasting through the Unreal Tournament scene back in 2002, and grew his profile from there.
“I think it’s a fairly unusual road I took to get to where I am,” Paul says. “I went back to college to learn how to do broadcasting better, in an evening school, which was hard as I was holding a full-time job at the same time.
“I think in some ways easier for new talent to get involved today because there are more jobs around. But I’d argue they’re thrown into the deep end too early.
“I had five years’ broadcast experience by the time I got to the point where I was working on something that had a big viewership, but these days people in esports broadcasting don’t get that. They have a few months of broadcasting experience then get thrown into a major tournament, and never seen again, or they do well and everyone wants them, because they’re the flavour of the month.
“If you’re good enough, you’re likely to get noticed quite quickly, because the talent pool is relatively shallow in comparison to the world of TVs or movies or sport.”
“If you are passionate about a particular game and you understand it enough, and you feel you can put your opinion into it, then absolutely, go out and do it.
“I think esports is a very low entry level industry, which is one of its greatest attributes, if you like. It’s because anyone can come along and give it a go, and if you’re good enough, you’re likely to get noticed quite quickly, because the talent pool is relatively shallow in comparison to the world of TVs or movies or sport.
“You can go to Twitch or YouTube right now and go and cast right now, as easily as you can pick up a football from a shop and go and play football with your friends.”
He also makes an important point around education.
“I wouldn’t want young people to give up their education to come and try and do broadcasting in esports – that’s a massive gamble that will only pay off for probably one in a thousand people that try it,” Paul explains.
“That’s a message I’d give to parents – don’t let your kids give up their education or college until they have their qualification.”
Paul Chaloner’s top 4 tips to becoming a great shoutcaster
It will sound very corny but you need to have the passion for the game that you talk about. It’s no good if you want to be an esports broadcaster above all else, then pick a game and talk about it. That’s not going to work, generally, but I’ve been very blessed – I’ve moved around different games but that was never my intention.
If you’re knowledge isn’t as good as it should be, then work on it. Learn the game better and how players play.
The absolute key to all success is preparation. Make sure you’re prepared when you go on air, whether it’s as a host, commentator, analyst. Make sure you are absolutely 100% ready to go and do that job.
You have to make a choice and be willing to make sacrifices.
Should you get a permanent contract or go freelance?
Having a contract for a permanent role will mean a more secure, regular wage coming in each month, but going freelance may give you greater freedom and a higher potential salary.
However, it’s not easy going freelance, as Paul explains: “It’s very stressful being a freelancer. When I left Gfinity in February, I was genuinely worried, am I going to get enough work and are people going to pay me?
“So there’s lots to consider before going freelance and it’s a massively risky world. But on the other side, the rewards are there. You have to balance that risk. You have to accept not everyone is going to pay on time and sometimes you have to put up with it, or you get a full-time job with a company and get paid less, but you have the security. That’s the choice you have to make.
“Also, if you’re a freelancer it’s really important [to grow your brand and promote yourself].
“At some point you have to recharge. Let’s not forget that sometimes there’s a lot of work to do, and if you don’t look after yourself, then it can come back to bite you on the bum. You need to stop and take a breath.”
“People who want to be a successful broadcaster must show they’re part of a scene and are active and ready to work.
“I push stuff out everywhere – Facebook, Periscope, Instagram, Twitter my own website… I try to cover all bases but not spread myself too thin.”
Getting paid on time is also a challenge as a freelancer, some invoice payment terms from companies can be 120 or even 150+ days. Not knowing when the next paycheque is coming in can be difficult to manage.
What can you expect to earn?
Some of the starting wages can be around £16,000 to £20,000 or 25,000 to 30,000 euros a year.
Some of the top-end casters can receive between 55,000 to 60,000 euros a year. At the very top-end, freelancers can earn six figures a year.
Pay varies – some freelancers might receive $600 a day for certain tournaments, while other tournament providers may pay £100 to £200 per day per caster.
What are the hours like?
Casting can be a demanding profession. Globally successful casters may be required to fly from city to city, and country to country, and be on the road for months at a time, depending on which tournaments are running and when.
Because of this, hours can vary greatly. There may be some weeks of downtime and other periods where you’ll be constantly working. The busiest weeks might be 80 hours (including travel), while quieter weeks might consist of 30 hours or so. It can vary from game to tournament.
On the potentially heavy workload, Paul Chaloner says: “At some point you have to recharge. Let’s not forget that sometimes there’s a lot of work to do, and if you don’t look after yourself, then it can come back to bite you on the bum. You need to stop and take a breath.”