Major sports broadcasters are leaning into eSports to fill the programming gaps left from leagues canceling professional sports games because of coronavirus.
The state of play: ESPN on Sunday aired 12 hours of esports including Rocket League, NBA 2K, and Madden.
Fox Sports aired its first Madden esports tournament last week after agreeing on a broadcast deal with the NFL.
Be smart: Without live sports, the players themselves are looking to eSports to stay connected to fans.
Some athletes, like NBA star Kevin Durant, are using eSports tournaments to raise money for charity. A few tournaments will be used to fund coronavirus relief efforts.
By the numbers: eSports streamers like Twitch, Mixer, Caffeine, and Discord all posted their best revenue-generating month, according to data from Apptopia.
Other professional creators, like musicians, are also flocking to those platforms to increase exposure now that most live events have been canceled.
The big picture: At-home gaming through PCs and consoles is also exploding.
According to Verizon, gaming as a sector is up 75% in data usage, way ahead of standard web traffic (up 20%) and video traffic (up 12%).
Experts predict that the uptick from the virus will push gaming publishers to create more cross-platform gaming software.
Yes, but: Many eSports have been built around live-streaming large in-person events.
“I think everybody is struggling,” says Jonathan Harrop, Senior Director of Global Marketing & Communications at AdColony, a mobile advertising company. “So many eSports are being pushed to live in-person events and obviously that has been completely shut down.”
What’s next: Harron has his doubts that eSports will catch on with the major television network audiences.
“There’s this weird substitution paradigm at play: How do eSports do on broadcast TV versus Twitch? How many 55-year-olds are going to tune and say these aren’t real people, what’s happening?”