In case you haven’t heard, eSports, AKA electronic sports, is a form of competitive video gaming between professional players, individuals, or teams… and it’s a big deal right now. Where traditional sports reach audiences through global broadcasts, eSports are broadcast via streaming. eSports has already exploded into a billion-dollar corporation, and if the industry fully crosses over into the broadcast space, its global audience will continue to boom. So, what will happen if eSports expands from the streaming world into the behemoth realm of broadcast?
FIRST: We Must Understand the Industry
There are many questions regarding the sub-culture of eSports. Is it entertainment? Is it sports? Is it both? Or, is it perhaps something completely separate?
Aside from not fully understanding what eSports is, more questions arise because this platform isn’t like TV as we know it—data feeds and fan interactions give eSports a look that is unfamiliar to broadcast moguls. Can something so unique be broadcast in the same way as traditional sports?
Some may argue that eSports doesn’t need to be broadcast since it has created a massive dedicated fanbase through social media and other online platforms, like Twitch, the world’s leading live streaming platform for gamers.
How Will Mainstream Broadcast Change eSports?
Perhaps it is the uniqueness of eSports that attracts such a large audience in the first place. A huge sector of the eSports community is teenage boys, which brings to question the staying power of eSports. Will this trend grow with its community or fade away in 20 years when its primary audience is working full time and raising families?
We also can’t help but wonder: is it worth the risk for eSports to abandon its current distribution model? If eSports goes mainstream, will it attract the same audiences as, say, soccer and football?
Some may argue that eSports is already mainstream. Keith Buckley, from True Wind Capital, owners of our client The Switch, explains “although the esports audience remains largely digital with the majority of its tournaments viewed via streaming online or OTT platforms. In 2018, Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch League Grand Finals were broadcast for the first time on the ABC network, and it was also the first time live competitive gaming aired on ESPN in primetime.”
Let’s Face the Facts
eSports is currently the fastest-growing segment of the entertainment industry with viewership estimates expected to surpass one billion by 2022. Now that’s huge! With NFL viewership decreasing each year and eSports growing at a rapid pace, does this sub-culture industry have the potential to be deemed the highest-ranking sport by viewers? Will eSports leave the streaming world behind? We will have to wait and see.