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Have you heard of Twitch and eSports...is a Question I Often ask People

Video gaming has come a long way, appealing now to a wider demographic than ever, from casual app gaming through to truly immersive experiences offered by VR.

However, popularity is not just limited to the playing of games, but also the watching of others playing; carving out a new genre of video content, a new sport, and a new form of sportsperson, with professional gamers seeking recognition akin to the likes of Brady and Ronaldo. And now the industry is breaking away from their niche online ecosystem to the mainstream world of TV.

Currently Twitch, (Amazon owned gaming social video site), is the number one destination for both individuals to broadcast their game play and the first choice for professional competitive gaming ‘eSport’ tournament organisers to broadcast their matches. And when you consider the site sees the average viewer watching 421.6 minutes per month, compared to a mere 291 on YouTube, it comes as no surprise that companies are increasingly looking to partner with Twitch.

For a game that involves players ‘twiddling their thumbs’ for hours, the above numbers are extremely impressive. So it comes as no surprise traditional broadcasters are now looking to take a share of Twitch’s action. Also factoring in the proposals currently sat with the IOC for esports to become a recognised Olympic event in 2020 games, the esport content pool is likely to get a whole lot bigger.

However, is it possible for the same viewership to transfer to linear viewing? Will the millennial population pull away from their laptops/mobiles and move to the TV?

Two of the main challenges to esport working on scheduled TV are firstly:

a)    The loss of interactivity

Part of what makes Twitch extremely popular is the interactivity and the ability to share commentary directly with other viewers whilst watching the events, allowing everyone’s inner Simon Cowell to come out. This has been one of the key drivers to increasing viewership for game events and something that may not transfer well to TV where commentary would be need to run on a secondary device or service such as Twitter. Facebook is attempting to enter the broadcast field in esport, and whilst this would allow direct commentary, the loss of anonymity in providing it may prove to be unpopular with the more ‘vicious’ spectators. 

b)    Returning to the familial screen.

Whilst wide scale TV broadcasting seems to be the end game for the evolution of eSport, it will be a challenge to the industry to transfer a generation defined by the internet to the traditional TV set. But there is no shortage of companies willing to take a punt on making it work.

Turner recently announced a multi-year deal with Twitch to broadcast its ELeague three times per week through the site to over 80 countries; this will be complemented by a weekly roundup show on Turner’s US linear channel TBS. The Eleague appears to be showing early signs of success gaining 500k viewers for the first broadcast at a 10pm slot and as broadcasts continue, this initiative could seek to grow its audience share outside of primetime.
    
Traditional broadcasters are likely to see difficulties in getting similar viewership seen on Twitch. However, eSport could help to break a new primetime for the video gaming masses, by utilising a generally less profitable late night time slot. 

Esport is and will continue to be largely prosperous whether it be online or on TV. Recent rumours of ESPN offering $500m to Riot Games for League of Legends may have come up false; however it does set a standard in the industry of how potentially valuable esport could be.

Personally, I’m not a fan, but I’m a rare breed. Esport is in it for the long run, so expect broadcasters, brands, advertisers, gamers all swarming towards this new money maker. Say goodbye to your sponsorships NBA stars; the nerds are coming to claim it!

About the author

Amisha Chauhan

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.