Measuring The Quality Of Esports Viewership

Industry Guest Post: Kevin is the Chief Product Officer at Waypoint Media and in charge of all things data. Prior to Waypoint he was a Special Projects Engineer at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and most recently worked on the AppNexus data science team building revenue optimization algorithms. He can be reached at kevin@waypointmedia.com.


Esports audiences are simple: they’re young, growing, and most importantly — engaged. Given the nature of esports this has generally been taken at face value, however as the industry matures, sophisticated marketers will be looking to validate these assumptions.

Third party publications report viewership with two specific metrics: average concurrent viewers and viewer hours. Eagle eyed observers however will recognize that these strictly measure quantity — the volume of content consumed.

To measure engagement the real question is: how long are viewers actually staying?

Case Study — Overwatch League vs LCS

The launch of Overwatch League (OWL) has surpassed all expectations. The inaugural season of the OWL has been keeping pace and at times even outperforming Riot’s League Championship Series (LCS).

 

JUST THE BASICS

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From March 8th, 2018 to March 22nd, 2018 the classic metrics show that 20% more content was consumed on the OWL channel compared to the LCS, by broadcasting an extra 10 hours, and having 10% higher average concurrent viewers.

OWL looks marginally better here but there’s almost no information about actual audience behavior with the basic viewership metrics.

 

ENGAGEMENT DISTRIBUTION

To answer the question of audience behavior and to look deeper into viewing habits, Waypoint tracks near minute to minute channel viewership on over 82 million unique registered Twitch viewers.

With this we analyze what each viewer is watching and for how long. Aggregated across all broadcast we generate the engagement distribution.

Viewers are watching 48% longer on OWL compared to the LCS
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Applying this analysis to the OWL and LCS we see exactly how the audience is behaving during each league’s broadcasts — the results are staggering. OWL blows LCS out of the water and it’s not even close.

At the 50th percentile, viewers are watching 48% longer on the OWL compared to the LCS. Possibly even more impressive, 25% of OWL viewers are watching for at least 2.3 hours per broadcast.

 

CONCLUSION

The basic viewership metrics average concurrent viewers and viewer hoursare woefully insufficient in describing a live esports broadcast. A broadcast’sengagement distribution describes how that channel is able to retain its viewership over time.

Comparing OWL and LCS’s basic viewership data, it’s hard to tell how each broadcast is performing. The engagement distribution clearly shows that Overwatch League is outperforming the LCS in viewer retention.

OWL is shiny and new, so it’s hard to say whether or not they’ll be able to keep it up, but what they’ve done up to this point is incredibly impressive.

Esports Performing Well On Twitter

TNL Take: It's been over 18 months since we predicted Twitter entering the esports space. Since then Twitter made a large push with ESL, Dreamhack and Intel Extreme Masters in March of last year.

How did they perform?

Very well actually according to data released by Twitter. Of the Top 10 live streamed events in 2017, 3 of them were esports related and considering the Top 2 were related to the US and UK elections; they could have ranked higher. With how much live streamed content Twitter broadcast, 3 in the Top 10 is impressive.

2017 Top Twitter Live Video Events (Photo: Twitter)

2017 Top Twitter Live Video Events (Photo: Twitter)

Twitter also quietly signed a deal last September with Riot Games to become Twitter Australia’s partner with League of Legends.  

The partnership saw 2 live streams for League of Origin and the Oceanic Premier League Grand Finals, as well as 10 live broadcasts via Periscope Producer. 

Why does esports work well on Twitter?

As expected, esports skews younger which works well with Twitter's audience consumption of sports events. Twitter has done deals with everyone from the NFL, MLB to the PGA and NASCAR.

The esports audience - from teams, pros to the viewers - use Twitter extensively. One of the biggest audience drivers to Twitch comes from Twitter; it's why you see those promoting a Twitch stream is live primarily use Twitter as their current social platform of choice.

For myself, Twitter chat is also an "easier" experience than Twitch chat. Based on the algorithm, I see tweets first from those I follow/follow me and those in my social graph. As the chat is built around tweets, it makes it easier to follow the conversation than a firehose of emotes. 

Laura Froelich, Twitter's Global Head of Sports Partnerships, told SportTechie a key stat last month: The Halo world championship was livestreamed on Twitter, Facebook and Twitch; with a total audience of 13 million - of which 10.2 million came from Twitter. 

Some further stats would provide greater insight but there's a clearly appetite for esports content on Twitter's platform.

What does 2018 have in store for Twitter?

Considering how much of Twitter's audience overlaps with esports, coupled with last year's live video performance, expect more partnerships for this year. While the majority of Twitter's esports broadcasts have not been exclusive to the platform - you may see one in 2018.

esports Week In Review | League of Legends Viewership, Tencent and NBA 2K League Brand Innovation

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | LEAGUE OF LEGENDS VIEWERSHIP, TENCENT AND NBA 2K LEAGUE BRAND INNOVATION

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TNL Take: This week we took a deeper look into the 2017 League of Legends World Championship Viewership numbers, how NBA 2K League sponsors can innovate and Tencent briefly bigger than Facebook and what's next for the gaming giant.

 

MONDAY 11/27

How Many Viewers Watched The League Of Legends 2017 Championship? Not 60M

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Have a great weekend!

How Many Viewers Watched The League Of Legends 2017 Championship? Not 60M

HOW MANY VIEWERS WATCHED THE LEAGUE OF LEGENDS 2017 FINALS? NOT 60M

That's Not a Football Game (Photo: Twitter/Riot Games)

That's Not a Football Game (Photo: Twitter/Riot Games)

TNL Take: Since The Next Level launched its weekly look into the Twitch Top 10, League of Legends has dominated primarily due to the 2017 World Championships occurring over the past month.

Last year, Riot Games put out an infographic stating that the 2016 World Championship drew 46M Unique Users.

League of Legends 2016 Viewership Stats (Photo: Riot Games)

League of Legends 2016 Viewership Stats (Photo: Riot Games)

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2017 League of Legends World Championship Stats (Photo: Esportscharts.com)

2017 League of Legends World Championship Stats (Photo: Esportscharts.com)

HOLY CRAP 100M! Ok, let's slow down for a second.

As this analysis is being done for Non-Chinese viewership, let's focus on those data points. Here's more from Esportscharts.com:

2017 League of Legends World Championship Stats (Photo: Esportscharts.com)

2017 League of Legends World Championship Stats (Photo: Esportscharts.com)

The biggest stat in the 1st column is total time watched at 70M+ hours excluding Chinese Viewers. By taking the total hours watched (70M+) divided by the total number of hours broadcast (136) that gives us an Average Concurrent Viewership of ~517,000.

2017 League of Legends Viewership Calculation (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

2017 League of Legends Viewership Calculation (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

That matches almost exactly the ~519,000 CCV reported as well.

While half a million users is a far cry from the 60M "total unique users" reported during the earnings call, it's still a very strong viewership figure for non-Chinese viewers only and why nothing comes close to League of Legends World Championship which remains the top viewed esports title.

Well done Riot Games.