E-Sports Viewerships and Targeted Ads

by | Nov 17, 2017

The controversy of what is a sport has been a hot topic for over a year now. Merriam Webster defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Taken at face value this basically only includes physical activities that promote competition such as football, rugby, baseball etc. However Chess is recognized as a sport by the official Olympic committee as it has a competitive nature, requires peak mental conditioning has player behavior codes / rules and has a global following. If you where to compare the two sports side by side the only difference is the physical portion of it.

On Saturday, November 4th 2017 one of the largest E-Sports competitions took place. It was the World Finals between Samsung Galaxy and SK Telecom T1, two legendary teams who have shed blood, sweat and tears to become the best team in the world. To get to this position they had to crush their respective global leagues to place high enough to be able to attend worlds. This was a grind that had each team playing a best-of-5 match twice a week. This began in May and was completed in August in which the Playoffs began. Each game in the best-of-5 averaged between 30-60 minutes. This means that each match could be 5 hours straight of mental strain to achieve the win that they strive for. After the regular season the playoffs began to narrow the field of the top two teams that would be going to worlds which ended August 26th and led into Group Stages the next month. This led to a group bracket that follows a very similar flow to footballs World Cup, having group and knockout stages, followed by quarter finals, semi finals and of course the Final show down.

The reason why I bring all of this information up is to show how much work and how much time goes into each match, which is always live streamed in front of large crowds of fans. The further the season goes on, the higher the production values and the bigger the crowds. When I say large crowds, I mean large crowds, generally regular season matches draw in more live attendees than most NBA games currently.

The viewership numbers for the League of Legends World Championship just came out and they are staggering. These stats only include World Championships play in group stages to the semi finals. From looking at the numbers we can see that the total time watched was 4,294,967,295 hours globally, which breaks down to 178,956,970.625 days watched, with 33,050,499 registered users watching the event via affiliate online streaming channels.

The early calculations for the final match between Samsung Galaxy and SKT1 are starting to roll in now and as of right now, 86,000,000 viewers watched just that series alone. This means in total the World Championship had 119,050,499 viewers throughout the series. If we compare this viewer number to this past year’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Falcons viewer number which was 111,900,000 we can see that these two events have had similar viewership numbers. This is only running the numbers of a full championship against one game day, which I realize does put a damper on the idea. However the average time spent actually physically playing a football game is 15 minutes, which is stretched out for a full hour long block due to in game pauses and commercial breaks. Where as a best-of-5 match for League of Legends can take a full afternoon to complete, with ads included, of course. The difference is with a traditional TV broadcasted sport, the ad slots are sold to the highest bidder and they are served to everyone, with no discretion on who they reach. Due to the nature of e-sports most of their events are live streamed via websites like twitch.tv or youtube.com. What this means is that the user watching the event has a long history of websites they have visited, shopping carts they have left open, lots of juicy content for advertisers to grab onto, allowing them to serve targeted ads to users who where already interested in something. 

To wrap up this rambling idea, large corporations such as Coca Cola have pulled much of their ad spend that they would usually use on traditional sporting events and have been pouring it into e-sport events. This is due to the boom in popularity of e-sports, the sheer quantity of time the viewers will put into each match and ads that they can more easily target to their consumers. So what makes a sport a sport, is it the physical activity or is it the capability for large amounts of people to watch the event and to monetize it?



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Miles is a pop culture loving, old school nerd whom has a fondness for good ole fashioned table top games. I am also a graphic designer and web developer who loves to explore both the future of our visual world as well as delve back to the days of letterpresses. My blogs seem to wonder hither and tither between my hobbies and professional interests, and when I can I try to combine them!