eSports have the potential to attract a young primarily male audience to TV and punch above its weight in terms of its value to broadcasters, according to Torsten Haux,, VP global media rights at Modern Times Group-owned eSports outfit ESL.
Speaking at Marketforce’s The Future of Broadcasting conference yesterday, Haux said that eSports, which has hitherto largely been an online phenomenon with a hardcore fanbase, is now moving to become a more mainstream form of entertainment.
Whereas previously content was only live and on Twitch. It is now available on YouTube and other online platforms. ESL is also doing original programming in the form of documentaries and interview shows.
“We are in a transformation process from the hardcore community on Twitch…to it becoming more mainstream” with distribution via TV and a wider variety of OTT platforms. He said major brands are investing, including the likes of Audi, Intel, Gillette, Coca-Cola, Red Bull and MasterCard.
Haux cited the example of eSports on the Sport1 channel in Germany as a way of demonstrating the potential for eSports to have a beneficial impact for TV.
“Could it work on TV? Yes, Sport1 is our partner in Germany which aired League of Legends live in primetime,” he said.
While Sports1’s primetime mainstream audience was 200,000, when eSports aired on the channel it secured an audience of 120,000. However, said Haux, this included 90,000 14-19 year-old males – a hard-to-reach audience – against an audience of 70,000 in this age group for mainstream sports on the channel. This translated into a 5.3% audience share in this group as against 1.3% share of this age group for mainstream sports offerings.
MTG already has a 24/7 eSports channel and ESL is producing a monthly highlights magazine. “We are making it more educative and entertaining,” said Haux.
Haux said that telcos and media groups were showing a growing interest. Telefónica has created an eSports media inventory in partnership with ESL and has become sponsor of the national league in Spain, creating its own eSports team. ESL has also struck a deal with Telekom Austria across the central and eastern Europe region.
Haux said the global audience for eSports is currently about 300 million, with revenues amounting to US$1.5 billion. Numbers are increasing by 30% a year, he said. Over 80% of eSports fans are 18-34 year-old males.
About a third of eSports content is provided by ESL/Dreamhack.