Esports Viewing Figures No Challenge to Mainstream Sports… Not Yet, Says Report

Posted on: May 14, 2017, 10:00h. 

Last updated on: May 13, 2017, 06:43h.

Suggestions that esports viewing figures are beginning to rival those of traditional mainstream sports are exaggerated, according to a new report by IHS Markit, although that’s not to say they aren’t growing at a rapid pace.

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The global esports audience is fragmented and has some way to go before it rivals traditional mainstream sports and fulfills its revenue potential, says IHS Markit. (Image: Getty)

IHS Markit found that, worldwide, time dedicated to watching esports was up 19 percent on last year, to over six billion hours. It estimates that around seven million Americans will tune in to the biggest esports tournament finals, such as the League of Legends World Championships.

However, that pales in comparison with the Super Bowl, which is routinely watched by a domestic audience of over 100 million.

Reports that surface periodically in the media that esports is challenging or has overtaken traditional sports like basketball or hockey are therefore overstated and are usually based “an apples-to-oranges comparison of both digital-to-linear TV and global-to-national audiences across esports and sports,” says IHS.   

Yet to Fulfill Revenue Potential

Crucially, however, the report found that there are three to four times more millennials watching esports than any of the big four US sports.

This makes esports an important means for advertisers to reach a highly-sought-after youth demographic that is difficult to engage through traditional media channels.

The report found that China is by far the biggest consumer of competitive video gaming by country, accounting for more 57 percent the global audience last year; that’s four times as much as the US, the world’s second-biggest market.

Esports is ultimately described as a nascent but growing industry and one that has yet to fulfill its revenue potential, due to a fragmented global audience.

IHS believes it will take a few years to bring the industry into maturity, when it will be monetized  through the sale of media rights to mainstream brands and broadcasters.

Advertising and sponsorship generated around $280 million last year, a figure that’s expected to rise to $1 billion by 2022.

Esports Gambling Likely to Grow

Likewise, the esports gambling market is currently small but growing. Most major online bookmakers currently offer wagers on esports tournaments in markets where it is legal.

These markets are likely to grow in tandem with esports as future broadcasting deals and exposure beyond the likes of TwitchTV and YouTube bring it to new audiences.

“[Esports] is definitely still at an early stage, it is unquestionably taking time,” Dan Cryan, analyst at IHS, told the Financial Times. “The audience might be small, but within its demographic, it is overindexing versus traditional sports on TV.”