esports burst out of niche to challenge traditional sports broadcasts
| 31 May 2014
The global market for video game competitions known as esports is booming, with viewership rivalling traditional sports in some regards, says a new study from IHS Technology.

IHS defines esports video as live and on-demand programming that presents organised gaming competitions. The market also includes content directly related to those events, such as highlights and pre-game shows.

The esports video: A cross platform growth story report calculates that viewers watched 2.4 billion hours of esports video in 2013, almost double the figure for 2012. The analyst predicts this figure will rise to 6.6 billion in 2018 with online video viewership key to growth.

Prior to the mass availability of live online streaming platforms, esports programming in the western world was largely consigned to highlights packages on major channels or live games on little-known cable networks. However, IHS now calculates that online esports viewership exceeded that of television for the first time in 2013, with nearly triple the number of hours of viewing. By 2018, it adds, online consumption will represent the overwhelming majority of time spent watching esports, accounting for nearly 90% of viewing hours. Moreover the survey notes that the rise of online video platforms such Twitch and also YouTube has helped the major esports events achieve large audiences by aggregating viewers from around the world. Individually these regional audiences may be too small to be viable on traditional television but by aggregating esports viewers, platforms like Twitch and YouTube can achieve real scale.

“esports videos have rapidly transformed from a niche activity into a widely watched, global, cross-platform entertainment category,” explained Dan Cryan, senior director, digital media research for IHS.

“Several factors are contributing to the surge in esports viewing. These include the fact that key game titles have reached maturity and game publishers are taking a major role in promoting esports competitions. Furthermore, esports viewing has been boosted by the emergence of online video platforms that are capable of handling large-scale live audiences.”