According to the latest eSports market report (yes, this new-born business already has its own market report!), the eSport business estimates to make almost $1.5 billion by 2020, with a total audience at around 600 million people. Not bad, considering that the e-sports business started in the late 2000s.

E-sports could be defined as a merge between gaming and sports events. Players, both in teams and individually, compete against each other in different computer games –  an activity that has shown a phenomenal growth in interest the past years.  As a reference, over 2.7bn of eSports videos were streamed last year only in North America.

eSports began as a way for publishers to build awareness of their games. Now the International e-Sports Federation is lobbying to have the genre recognised as an Olympic event by 2024 and there are already plans to build dedicated eSports arenas at some casinos in Las Vegas.

Traditional sports clubs and federations have also shown increasing interest in eSports – apart from European football clubs’ involvement in the international tournaments of FIFA18, the NBA and NHL are planning to do the same for basketball and ice hockey. Formula 1 is one of the last examples of sports organizations venturing into eSports.

Publishers and eSports tournament operators are engaging with broadcasters to leverage the increasing interest in eSports. Especially as a way for broadcasters to engage with younger and online audience that is difficult to attract. Some broadcasters like Sky and ITV in the UK, as well as Sweden-based MTG (Modern Times Group) have invested in eSports.

What is the opportunity for the media industry?

In a rapidly evolving media ecosystem, business models are being reinvented. Old-school players are exploring new revenue streams for high-demanding audiences that are asking for new content adapted to their way of consumption. For the younger online audience who never had a relationship to traditional television, eSports seems to be a good opportunity for creating long term engagement.

Having an online origin, eSports have primarily attracted non-traditional broadcast companies. Focusing on video streaming and especially live video, tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Amazon have found eSports as a good alternative to create increased growth.

But traditional broadcasters and platforms still have a stake in the game. Experience in producing and broadcasting live events creates an edge when it comes to eSports events. Big eSport events like Overwatch League or Dota (Defence of the Ancients) 2 Championships 2017, are becoming stadium-based events –  like the non-electronic sports they were trying to beat. Dota 2 is by itself distributed to over 40 million homes worldwide.

This new genre of events is creating the same advantages as traditional sports events. The Olympics and the World Cup are gathering massive audiences in a short period of time, creating attractive advertising opportunities. The same goes for eSports – PwC predicts that the growth in eSports advertising will overturn that of overall digital video advertising in the near future.

eSports is a big opportunity for broadcasters and platforms to develop their OTT strategy using the digital advertising appetite to monetize their online services. On top of that, eSports is a tremendous occasion to use technology to engage audiences – immersive experiences with the use of cutting-edge UHD technology and VR/AR proposals to visually enhance the eSports coverage.

The future is open and promising for eSports. Do you want to play?

Silvia Botella, Marketing Content Manager