Has eSports Become a Fully Fledged Broadcast Sport?

By Telegiz , | August 07, 2017

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The eSports industry is predicted to hold a worth of $1.5billion in revenue by 2020, with a global audience of 589 million. Furthermore, the number of people around the globe who are aware of eSports is expected to grow from 809 million in 2015 to 1.57 billion in 2019. The difference between the popularity of eSports today compared to just over a decade ago when it was first truly emerging as a spectator sport is astounding. Its popularity looks set only to grow, with more and more platforms signing up to broadcast eSports events.

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YouTube and Twitch: Streaming Sovereigns

Additionally, North American media company Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation, publicly known as Lionsgate, has invested in The Immortals franchise, who they claim attract 200 million fans in League of Legends, CS:GO, Overwatch and Super Smash Bros. Lionsgate's statement that their "involvement in eSports creates tremendous opportunities to develop new content" foreshadows the arrival of eSports broadcasting from them in the future.

Streaming platform Twitch has had a strong bond with eSports since its initiation in 2011, as the streaming of StarCraft (released 1998) games was what predominantly helped bring Twitch into the public eye. In February 2017, people watched a total of 99.19 million hours of MOBA League of Legends content produced by both pros and regular players. YouTube (created in 2005), too, is a platform that has been used to stream and view gaming content for years. In August 2015, YouTube introduced a new subsite exclusively for video game streaming: YouTube Gaming. Yet recently, we are beginning to see television broadcasting corporations buying into the eSports scene.

TV's Venture Into eSports

Recently, British television corporation, the BBC, have announced that they will be broadcasting hours of live eSports every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next few weeks. The new Gfinity Elite Series will incorporate CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive), Street Fighter V and Rocket League. Although the channel it is to be broadcast on (BBC Three) is exclusively online, this still marks a monumental leap into the British television broadcasting industry for eSports. On the other hand, Sky and ITV collaborated to create a channel dedicated entirely to eSports: Ginx eSports TV. Now, despite remaining a UK-based company, Ginx TV has created numerous Ginx eSports TV channels around the globe, spanning 41 territories and broadcasting to 37 million homes to date, offering live tournaments, eSports news and live entertainment such as "The Bridge".

Sports Investments

Entertainment companies are not the only ones investing in eSports; conventional sports teams and leagues are too. The premier basketball league, NBA, has seen investments from its players into eSports since 2015. Notably, in 2016, there was the purchasing of Team Dignitas and Team Liquid by the New Jersey Devils and investment group aXiomatic (comprised of Ted Leonsis, Peter Gruber and Magic Johnson), respectively. Elsewhere, soccer club F.C. Copenhagen joined with Nordisk Film to sign the Danish CS:GO team formed under the Team Dignitas label, to create a new eSports brand, NORTH. Meanwhile, French soccer club Paris St-Germain created its own eSports team from scratch in October 2016, to compete in League of Legends. PSG's eSports team manager, Bora Kim, ascertains that, "In the long run, I'm pretty sure eSports can grow as big as football."

How Do eSports Resemble Conventional Sports?

Like conventional sports leagues, eSports has its top teams (such as Evil Geniuses and Fnatic) and players (including StarCraft legend Jaedong and Call of Duty veteran JKap), who compete in global tournaments like The International for Dota 2. Countries are even beginning to form their own eSports Leagues, with the Netherlands becoming the third to do so. Furthermore, as with traditional sporting events, betting on the outcome of matches is a huge industry. Mainstream sports betting sites like Betway detail the odds for games, and there is no shortage of tournaments in which to place bets on the success of your favourite teams.

Like sports stars, some of the biggest names in eSports have become major online personalities, gaining thousands of followers on Twitter; for example, Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng from Team SoloMid (TSM), who has amassed over 600,000 followers. This active online presence not only provides extra information for eSports viewers outside of tournaments, but also works to attract new viewers to eSports.

The viewer numbers in the last few years show that eSports has reached - and in some cases exceeded - the viewership for traditional broadcasted sports games (in 2014, the viewer ratings for the League of Legends World Championship topped those of the NBA finals). Therefore, eSports is a fully-fledged broadcast sport, and it's spreading its wings wide. The only question now is how far it will fly until the whole world looks up and sees it.

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