2017 eSports TV Ratings: Can Turner's ELEAGUE Draw Brands?

2017 ESPORTS TV RATINGS: CAN TURNER'S ELEAGUE DRAW BRANDS?

ELEAGUE's New Season (Photo: Turner)

ELEAGUE's New Season (Photo: Turner)

TNL Take: A relatively quiet week on the eSports TV programming side compared with the   flood over the past month.

TNL Infographic 061: 2017 eSports TV Ratings: ELEAGUE Season 3 (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 061: 2017 eSports TV Ratings: ELEAGUE Season 3 (Infographic: The Next Level)

 

TURNER

TBS had the only eSports related programming this week with a Preview show to the start of their third season of Counter-Strike.  These 1-hour overview episodes tend to perform well as the viewership doesn't run to midnight like the normal programming.

Here is 2016's Season 2 Preview show for comparison:

2016 eSports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

2016 eSports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

Now here's the million dollar question - where are the brands?

Turner made great fanfare by announcing a slew of sponsorships to start Season 1:

Season 3 begins this Friday and not one major partnership has been announced.

With as many televised events in 2017 already as 2016, the brands should be increasing along with the vast number investing now in eSports.

 

The canary in the coal of mine of advertising is always brand renewals and I can definitely say this: Season 3 will not have nearly the presenting sponsors as Season 1.

Why? Let's say one of the big reasons has nothing to do with the ratings or the game being a First Person Shooter.

2017 eSports TV Ratings: NBC's eSports Debut

2017 eSports TV Ratings: NBC's eSports Debut

Rocket League Universal Open On NBCSN (Photo: NBC Sports)

Rocket League Universal Open On NBCSN (Photo: NBC Sports)

TNL Take: Earlier this week, Feature Writer Jordan Fragen had a detailed analysis of DisneyXD's whopping 60+ eSports and Gaming programming slate.

How's everyone else doing?

Two very interesting data points from the latest ratings.

TNL Infographic 060: eSports TV Ratings - NBC's Debut (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 060: eSports TV Ratings - NBC's Debut (Infographic: The Next Level)

NBCSN

By far the biggest eSports on TV story this past week was Rocket League's Grand Finals on NBC Sports Network on Sunday. Until the Grand Finals, the qualifiers were shown on various NBC Regional Networks like Philadelphia and Chicago [Note: I had 3 people call me from Chicago and couldn't believe what they were watching in the bar 👍🏽 ]

I'm a big fan of Rocket League and rooting for the game's future but the lowest rated live eSports program with 34,000 total viewers was surprising. What's even more surprising is that the repeat at midnight had almost double the viewership as the 9PM Live event.

But was it?

Here's what I wrote last month when Rocket League announced multiple different distribution partnerships:

The Next Level July 19, 2017 (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level July 19, 2017 (Photo: The Next Level)

One of the biggest eSports weekend's was against Game Of Thrones new season.

This past weekend was the Game Of Thrones season finale.

If it's not obvious at this point, here's how you eSports TV ratings will do against Game Of Thrones.

Game Of Throne's Monstrous Ratings (Photo: HBO)

Game Of Throne's Monstrous Ratings (Photo: HBO)

 

TBS/ELEAGUE

Turner continues it's partnership with publisher Valve by first starting with Counter-Strike and now showed DOTA2 and the run up to eSports largest prize pool, The International which hit ~$25M this year.

While those programs performed well - and even beat highly produced events like ELEAGUE's Major - there was 1 program that stood out.

The highest rated eSports program for ELEAGUE this year wasn't an actual event - but a 3 year old documentary on DOTA made by Valve.

Valve's "Free To Play" Documentary (Photo: Valve)

Valve's "Free To Play" Documentary (Photo: Valve)

If a 3+ year old documentary that's been available on Netflix, YouTube and a host of other places performs that well and place that next to DisneyXD's content and you can start to see the need for what I've been talking and hoping for the past year: 

Good. eSports. Shoulder. Content.

Many, many startups and companies are tackling this space and over the next year should see a slew of content released.

Disney XD's Deep Dive Into eSports

DISNEY XD'S DIVE INTO ESPORTS

Disney XD's Dive Into eSports (Photo: Nintendo)

Disney XD's Dive Into eSports (Photo: Nintendo)

By Feature Writer: Jordan Fragen
 

TNL Take:  You can point to Amazon's acquisition of Twitch in 2014 as eSports rapid inflection point. However beyond going to an event in person, the only previous way to watch and support your favorite teams and games was via digital platforms. As we reported last week, the number of eSports programs on TV has tripled in 2017 and brought visibility to a seemingly niche ecosystem.

That’s a huge step forward in itself.

DXP.png

Disney is clearly leading this charge to bring eSports to a wider audience.  In mid-July, Disney XD launched their D|XP programming block along with a partnership with ESL. Described "to connect with gaming enthusiasts of all ages with a core demographic of age 13+",  some of these shows feature stars from Disney owned MCN Maker Studios and its Polaris subnetwork.

However, much of this block has been devoted to eSports.

Disney is bringing in a demographic younger than the traditional audience. In 2016, the average age for eSports TV viewers was 32 - an audience vastly younger than for traditional sports, but definitely not the stated target of young men 18+.  

Herein lies the challenge.

In the last 7 weeks, Disney XD has aired matches from 8 different games and even more tournaments. Let’s take a closer look at each of these games to see what has resonated the most with Disney XD’s younger demographic.

One usual caveat before the analysis: Like any eSports TV data, the sample size is relatively limited to draw definitive conclusions.

TNL Infographic 058: Disney XD's 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 058: Disney XD's 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

[Edit: No you're not seeing that wrong. Disney XD has put on 63 eSports/Gaming related programming in the last 2 months. And yes, The Next Level is working on a new way to present this data]

 

/01 HEROES OF THE STORM

Traditionally Blizzard’s MOBA has struggled to gain audience share on Twitch against Riot Games' League of Legends.  However Heroes of the Storm was the first in the MOBA genre to make a US TV debut and most recently the media rights were acquired by Facebook.

KEY STAT:

  • Viewership trended downward through the weeks despite viewership peaking on Episode 8 with 137K viewers

 

/02 EA FIFA 17

Along with a Spanish language feed on ESPN Deportes, Disney XD also aired games from FIFA 17’s Ultimate Team Championship Series. EA has already seen some success airing the Madden Championship Series in both 2016 and 2017, but FIFA has the potential to reach a larger international audience given it’s airing Futbol and not Football. 

KEY STAT:

  • 70%+ of the audience was outside of the 18-49 age bracket - why was this so low?

 

/03 STREET FIGHTER V

Street Fighter is perhaps the most unique case of the bunch. In addition to airing EVO 2017, Disney has partnered with ESL to make ESL Brawlers. The program features a syndicated series of tournaments and highlights some of the game’s post promising talent.

KEY STAT:

  • The EVO 2017 Finals repeat garnered more viewers than the live event

 

/04 SPLATOON 2

Splatoon 2 is the second entry into one of Nintendo’s newest IPs. The game’s core mechanic of painting territory to capture makes the action easy to follow visually as I recently witnessed in person and further enhanced by the high quality spectator mode. Despite this franchise being new, it has Nintendo’s full support and is already extremely popular in Japan.

Splatoon 2 is the first game listed in this article that specifically appeals to Disney XD’s stated niche audience of young boys 13+. Given the less realistic nature and it’s vibrant color scheme, this shooter serves as a family friendly introduction to the First Person Shooter genre. 

KEY STAT:

  • As to be expected, the later timeslots received far fewer viewers than the earlier airings

 

/05 ARMS

While ARMS itself  is extremely fun to play and easy to learn, it looks rather simplistic which is not a recipe for success when making something that's to be enjoyed by a large audience.

KEY STAT:

  • Majority of of viewers (73%) were outside of the 18-49 demo as expected

 

/06 POKKEN TOURNAMENT DX

Originally released in Japanese arcades, Pokkén Tournament was a mash up of everyone’s favorite collectible monster franchise with the classic fighting game mechanics of the popular Tekken franchise.

Pokkén Tournament DX, the updated release for Nintendo’s Switch, hopes to remedy many of these problems and fulfill the initial promise of the mashup. And the initial airings point to a positive response from Disney XD’s audience.

KEY STAT:

  • Pokkén Tournament DX was aired directly after ARMS twice. In these cases, Pokkén Tournament DX had fewer viewers than ARMS, suggesting that the audience did not carry over

 

/07 SUPER SMASH BROS. FOR WII U

It's somewhat shocking to see Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is making an appearance on this list. Until this day, Nintendo has had a rocky relationship with the Smash Bros. community, with its most contentious point in 2013 when Nintendo attempted to prevent EVO from streaming Super Smash Bros. Melee on Twitch.

But Nintendo has begun to change its tone with regards to Smash.

Last year, Melee was given the spotlight on the largest stage in the Fighting Game Community and was aired on ESPN2. However, along with Street Fighter V, Smash 4 was broadcasted on Disney XD. This is a massive change of heart for Nintendo given that Smash is by far the largest eSport with virtually zero support from its publisher.

Without wading into the murky waters of Smash community politics, this decision to change the time slots for Melee and the series newest iteration was not universally well received.

However, from Nintendo’s perspective, the decision was clear.

Smash Bros. for Wii U’s EVO top 8 was the second highest rated eSport on Disney XD and the highest average viewership for any game on the network. When the finals were repeated 2 weeks later, Smash only lost 23% of its audience from its initial live airing.

KEY STAT: 

  • When compared to the average show in the 6pm - 9pm time slot, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U earned 50% more average concurrent viewers. Yes, that’s right - 50%.

 

So overall, what should you take away from Disney’s first few weeks in eSports?

 

Let’s start off by comparing the average viewership numbers for all 63 eSports programs aired on Disney XD.

TNL Infographic 059: Disney XD's eSports Programming Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 059: Disney XD's eSports Programming Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)


/01 eSports programming has been highly successful on Disney XD, especially Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

/02 The featured game in the eSports program had a greater impact than programming slot

/03 eSports have efficiently drawn in a younger audience. On average, only 26% of the audience falls into the 18-49 age bracket. Based on Disney Xd's demographics, the audience skews below 18.

/04 Generally speaking Nintendo titles outperformed other games. Due to Nintendo’s family friendly nature - it aligns perfectly with Disney XD’s younger audience.

 

It will be interesting to see if these viewership numbers remain consistent in the Fall when kids are back in school. I would also like to continue to see more family friendly games and eSports as Disney XD could serve as a pipeline for not only mainstream viewership, but to the next generation of eSports fans and stars.

2017 eSports TV Ratings: Disney XD Pulls Ahead With 28 Programs

ESPORTS TV RATINGS: DISNEY XD PULLS AHEAD WITH 28 PROGRAMS

eSports TV Ratings: Disney XD Pulls Ahead With 28 Programs (Photo: ESL)

eSports TV Ratings: Disney XD Pulls Ahead With 28 Programs (Photo: ESL)

TNL Take: To reiterate one of the main themes of eSports in 2017: the bifurcation and distribution of content across TV and Digital platforms.

By far the biggest increase in TV programming has come from the House of the Mouse: Disney

 

2017 DISNEY NETWORKS ESPORTS TV RATINGS

2017 Disney Networks eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

2017 Disney Networks eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

DISNEY XD

After announcing a Gaming programming slate and partnership with ESL, DisneyXD has aired 28 eSports events/programs over the past month.

The Next Level feature writer Jordan Fragen will have an in depth look at Disney XD next week but a few quick points:

  • DisneyXD as released by far the largest amount of eSports related content in a 1 month span
  • The EVO Smash Brothers Finals repeat garnered 80% of the Live Finals viewership - 2 weeks later and with a 9:30PM Sunday time; that's pretty remarkable
  • Interesting to see Disney "share" eSports between ESPN and DisneyXD and allows them to target different advertisers against the same content as the networks have different demographics

 

2017 ESPORTS TV RATINGS

2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

 

CBS

After debuting with a whopping 4M+ total viewers, Candy Crush has steadily dropped and is about half off its peak, averaging ~2.2M viewers over the past month.

Although Candy Crush has dropped significantly, this past Sunday's ratings doubled last year's 9PM comparison against Madam Secretary.

 

NBC

Rocket League was shown across a few different NBC regional networks (Chicago, Philadelphia, etc.) over the past few weeks and will have a further update once all events have completed.

 

Currently, eSports TV programming in 2017 has tripled 2016's total and we still have 4+ months left in the year.