The meteoric rise of live-streaming and Twitch helped propel the eSports explosion. At any given point last year, Twitch saw 550,000 concurrent viewers. Those numbers spiked big time whenever there was a gaming tournament.
More than 27 million unique viewers watched some portion of the ESL Cologne 2015 tournament during one weekend in August 2015. A concurrent viewer record of more than 2 million was set during that tournament.
This chart from Newzoo illustrates how popular these events are on Twitch and which ones drive the most viewers.
But what about traditional media? Esports, or competitive gaming, took a crack at TV several years back – but couldn’t break through. But times have changed. Viewership has multiplied many times over, and big money is taking notice.
TBS is jumping into the deep end with eLeague. The new gaming league kicked off the action earlier this week with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, an objective-based shooter. TBS made the obvious decision to partner with Twitch. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Twitch will host eLeague matches. But on May 27th, eLeague hits TBS live. And I can’t wait to see how it translates to TV.
There are no TV timeouts in eSports. The only downtime you usually see is between matches. How TBS approaches this will be just as intriguing as the actual gameplay. Fans will not put up with commercials as matches are going on. Will TBS try to bring TV to eSports? Or will TBS embrace how this platform works online, and more importantly, the demographic they seek. We’ll find out on Friday night.
College networks getting in on the action
It’s not just TBS. The Pac-12 has its eye on eSports too. The presidents and chancellors approved Pac-12 Networks to start pushing eSports competitions later this year. No word on which games will be played, but expect more news as the Fall semester approaches.
“eSports is a natural fit for many of our universities located in the technology and media hubs of the country,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “Pac-12 Networks’ commitment to innovation as well as its natural tie to our universities and established media platform make it the perfect organization to develop the framework for eSports intercollegiate competition.”
Can eSports work on traditional TV outlets?
It can, and ultimately will. The way we consume media has changed. Netflix ruins us by dropping entire TV seasons at once. The younger generation turns to YouTube for entertainment. And while eSports isn’t as big as Football and Basketball, it’s growth trajectory is insane.
eSports on TV might have been an experiment several years ago. But those days are gone. The viewership, and the much sought after 18-35 demographic, is watching Twitch and YouTube. They’re not coming back to TV. TV has to come to them.
Images via e-League.