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China dominates eSports globally; Nordics on top in Europe

January 13, 2020

Research from Ampere Analysis has found that 26 per cent of Internet users in China watch eSports at least once per month, creating a huge and highly engaged audience. Western markets lag China, but Denmark and Sweden lead European usage, with 8-9 per cent of Internet users watching eSports on at least a monthly basis. While eSports’ largest demographic group globally is males aged 18-34, audiences are moving away from traditional stereotypes. In Q3 2019, 35 per cent of those watching eSports in the last month were female.

The rise of esports

  • China leads the world for eSports viewers. 26 per cent of Internet users in China said they watched eSports services in the last month (based on Ampere Analysis’s consumer polling from Q3 2019). The League of Legends 2018 World Championship alone had a concurrent audience of 203 million in China compared to just 2 million in the rest of the world.
  • Nonetheless, audiences in Western countries are still substantial. Research by Ampere Analysis has discovered that between 5 per cent- 9 per cent of Internet users in developed Western markets typically watch eSports on a monthly basis via online streaming services.
  • Denmark and Sweden lead eSports viewing in Europe. 9 per cent of Danish Internet users and 8 per cent of Swedish Internet users watch eSports on a monthly basis. Given the strong interest in eSports in Scandinavia, it is perhaps no surprise that regional entertainment group Modern Times Group (MTG) has made numerous investments in the eSports and gaming world. MTG currently controls several competitions and leagues, including ESL and DreamHack.
  • High profile tournaments have drawn in huge numbers globally. The 2019 Fortnite World Cup reached 20 million global viewers on Twitch and the FIFA 19 eWorld Cup amassed 50 million global viewers across platforms including YouTube.

Key demographics

  • The key demographic for eSports is males aged 18-34, who are typically highly engaged with video content and are tech-savvy. These consumers are also less likely to view any content via broadcast TV channels and are 25 per cent more likely to subscribe to at least one subscription video on demand (SVoD) platform.
  • While viewing is skewed towards younger male audiences, audience demographics are moving away from traditional stereotypes. 35 per cent of viewers are female, 40 per cent are over 35 and 33 per cent live with young children.
  • In China, the gender mix is more balanced; 43 per cent of eSports viewers are female.

Amazon-owned Twitch is the principal platform for eSports viewing, hosting a variety of channels through which fans can engage with their favourite games and gamers. Developers have also begun to explore hosting tournaments via their own platforms – relying on the popularity of their games to drive viewership; Tencent-owned Riot Games’ streaming service, Pro View, is specifically built for their League of Legends tournaments. Twitch, however, has a scale advantage and has struck exclusive third-party streaming rights for events including the Overwatch League through a deal with developer Blizzard.

Hazel Ford, Analyst at Ampere Analysis, said:The rise of eSports viewing on a global scale presents a potentially lucrative opportunity for new and existing players. Platforms such as Twitch and YouTube are currently market leaders but face growing competition from a number of newcomers, including the developers themselves. As with the traditional sports world, exclusive rights deals will become crucial for platforms looking to control high growth eSports audiences.”

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