In the last couple weeks we've seen increasing investment from the real sports world into eSports as the Philadelphia 76ers became the first North American franchise to buy an eSports team; that was quickly followed by an investment group with executives and owners from NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS teams securing a controlling interest in the long-running multi-eSport franchise Team Liquid. Clearly the real sports world is standing up and taking notice of its digital cousin, and it should be according to a new report from the researchers at Newzoo.
The latest report from the firm finds that among US male millennials (age 21 to 35), eSports is now just as popular as baseball or hockey with 22% watching it. Moreover, 76% say that their eSports viewership is taking away hours they used to spend watching traditional sports. For some, eSports is the only type of sport that holds their interest; there are six million eSports fans (of twenty million in total) in the US that do not watch baseball, hockey, basketball, or American football at all.
eSports viewers are typically young, which makes them highly valuable for marketers. While 56% of American football fans are older than 35, eSports fans are far younger with 73% below the age of 35. "The millennial audience aged between 21 and 35 and the generation following have a completely different media consumption profile than older consumers. Games and eSports give them the active engagement they desire and thrills they do not find in other entertainment," Newzoo points out.
Newzoo sees eSports as a "multi-billion-dollar business in the making." Revenues from merchandise, ticketing, media rights, advertising, and sponsorships total about $500 million this year. "If eSports revenues per fan were similar to the NBA, it would easily be a $2.5 billion business today. Hence, the interest of traditional media and investors." Newzoo explains.
Pieter van de Heuvel, Head of Esports at Newzoo, comments, "The huge interest in eSports from sports celebrities, clubs, media companies, and brands alike illustrate how games are leading the media and entertainment business towards a new future that has more in common with games than not. Games bring innovation in tech and consumer business models, and have a unique ability to engage with and actively involve the younger generations. Traditional and digital media and sports companies bring experience in providing advertisers with an effective communication platform. There clearly is a natural, strategic and commercial fit."
The entire Newzoo report can be downloaded here.