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esports viewing cannibalises traditional sports

A report from global market intelligence firm Newzoo comparing esports fans with those of the four big American sport suggest the vast majority of American football fans (56 per cent) are older than 35, while esports fans are far younger, with 73 per cent below the age of 35. The popularity of esports spikes among male millennials. In fact, 22 per cent of this valued target group frequently view esports, placing it higher than ice hockey and equal to the popularity of baseball.

According to Pieter van de Heuvel, Head of Esports at Newzoo, the huge interest in esports from sports celebrities, clubs, media companies, and brands alike illustrates how games are leading the media and entertainment business toward a new future that has more in common with games than not. “Games bring innovation in tech and consumer business models, and have a unique ability to engage with and actively involve the younger generations. Traditional and digital media and sports companies bring experience in providing advertisers with an effective communication platform. There clearly is a natural, strategic, and commercial fit.”

In brief, there are three reasons resulting in the enormous interest from both consumer brands and sports companies to get involved in esports:

  1. Reaching the unreachables: The millennial audience aged between 21 and 35 and the generation following have a completely different media consumption profile than older consumers. Games and esports give them the active engagement they desire and thrills they don’t find in other entertainment.
  2. Games have become a global spectator sport: Similar to sports, a large share of the total esports audience does not play the game(s) themselves. Live streaming services like Twitch and its Asian counterparts have more than 100 million unique viewers each month, and games as a theme are equal to music on YouTube. Live esports events draw up to 100,000 visitors over a weekend.
  3. A multi-billion-dollar business in the making: Revenues generated through merchandise, ticketing, media rights, advertising, and sponsorships already amounts to approximately $0.5 billion this year. If esports revenues per fan were similar to the NBA, it would easily be a $2.5 billion business today. Hence, the interest of traditional media and investors.

Other report highlights include:

  • Among American male millennials (age 21 to 35), esports is just as popular as baseball or ice hockey, with 22 per cent watching it.
  • 76 per cent of Esports Enthusiasts say that their esports viewership is taking away hours they used to spend watching sports.
  • There are six million esports fans (of twenty million in total) in the US that do not watch baseball, ice hockey, basketball, or American football at all.
  • Of the 80 million American basketball fans, 9.6 million are also into esports. Basketball clubs investing into esports have the potential to reach 10.3 million new (esports) fans currently not into basketball.

The findings in the report illustrate how the investments of sports clubs have two objectives: providing new means of entertainment to a growing part of their existing fan base, and drawing millions of new fans to their franchise.

Newzoo’s research investigates the demographics, local brand preferences, as well as gaming, media, and spending behavior of esports Enthusiasts, gamers, and sports fans in relation to the total active online population. This allows it to make a detailed profile of the typical digital native consumer.

  • esports Enthusiasts are the digital native heavy users and big spenders: 52 per cent of US esports fans have a HBO subscription vs. 29 per cent of the general online population.
  • Competitive games are popular among esports Enthusiasts, regardless of platform: 39 per cent of US esports Enthusiasts (vs. 17 per cent of all gamers) have played Clash Royale in the past three months.




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