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.

Twitch Top 10 Week of Oct 30th: Did Overwatch's World Cup Succeed?

TWITCH TOP 10 WEEK OF OCT 30TH: DID OVERWATCH'S WORLD CUP SUCCEED?

2017 Overwatch World Cup (Photo: Blizzard)

2017 Overwatch World Cup (Photo: Blizzard)

By Feature Writer Jordan Fragen

Welcome back! Every Tuesday, TNL Media dives into the past week’s Top 10 Games on Twitch to bring you the key storylines behind the data. Last time, we discussed the power of major tournaments to drive viewership, one MMO’s success in community driven promotion and the unique experience of watching anime with over 500K of your closest friends.

Let’s jump right into this week’s major headlines.

Waypoint Media is the leader in Esports and gaming audience data. They support clients like Nielsen in their efforts to understand the Esports audience. Reach them at  info@waypointmedia.com .

Waypoint Media is the leader in Esports and gaming audience data. They support clients like Nielsen in their efforts to understand the Esports audience. Reach them at info@waypointmedia.com.

Crowning the 2017 League of Legends World Champions

League of Legends fans filled the Bird’s Nest in Beijing (Photo: Riot Games)

League of Legends fans filled the Bird’s Nest in Beijing (Photo: Riot Games)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Faker may be a god at League of Legends, but that did not stop his teammates from dropping the ball over the weekend. In a shocking 0-3 loss, SKT1 was denied a Three-peat by Korean rivals Samsung Galaxy. Lead by their Mid-laner Crown and Jungler Ambition, Samsung Galaxy defied expectations and got their revenge.

Looking at the data, fans were clearly engaged by this year’s finals. Most categories were up slightly from the previous week (between 1-6%). However, Peak Concurrent Viewers surged  27% to reach 1.1M concurrents. That’s huge for both Twitch and Riot. Few streams have broken 1M concurrents on Twitch and it's only fitting to see LoL join that elite group.

Despite reaching this important milestone, most stats were down compared to the 2016 World Championships.

Total Hours Watched fell by 9%, Hours Streamed dropped by 12% and Average Concurrents sank by 10%. And perhaps most importantly, fans watched on average about an hour less this year compared to last.

Part of this is likely explained by the final series only going for 3 games instead of the full 5. Additionally, there is some good news. Unique viewers increased by 16% compared to the 2016 World Championships.

 

Fortnite has PUBG in its sights

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) and its massive success. However, the steam on this hype train may be waning ever so slightly. While most metrics have remained roughly stable (±5%) from last week, the game has generally been trending downwards since late August.

And this isn’t the case for genre rival Fortnite. Epic’s take on the battle royale genre primarily differentiates itself through its cartoon-y visuals and less serious vibe and this appears to have captured gamers attention for now. For the last 6 weeks, Fortnite has slowly taken a foothold on Twitch. While the community is smaller (4.7M unique viewers watched Fortnite vs. 7.9M for PUBG), there is huge overlap between the two.

54% of Fortnite’s viewers (~1.4M viewers) also tuned into a PUBG stream in the last 6 weeks.

There are several potential reasons for Fortnite’s rise and PUBG’s decline, but the most likely explanation is the variety Fortnite offers to PUBG. While the team at Bluehole appears to be gearing up for the Xbox One X release due out in December, PC players seem to be starving for new features. The last major gameplay feature added to the game was first-person mode way back in July. Without major variety introduced since then, viewers and streamers may simply be getting bored and restless.

It’ll take more to topple the behemoth of PUBG, but for now players seem to be branching out and experimenting.

Finally, let's get to this week's biggest story.

 

Overwatch’s World Cup proves OWL’s Potential

Early November is always a massive time for Blizzard and their games. The company’s annual convention, Blizzcon, has traditionally been the home for their annual esports championships. Hearthstone performed well despite holding an invitational tournament rather than its championship, but it was not the main event.

With the Overwatch League’s January 10th start date looming, all eyes were on this year’s World Cup as a de facto pilot test. Armed with a slew of brand new spectating features and the world’s top talent, this past weekend was a critical test for the ambitions of Activision Blizzard and CEO Bobby Kotick.

So how did the hero shooter do?

 
 

Considering how underwhelming Overwatch’s past performance has been, this week was a rousing success.

While there is still a lot of room for improvement, the World Cup managed to reach 1.5M unique viewers and a Peak Concurrent Viewership of 325K. Hours Watched for the previous 4 weeks averaged at about 2.5M hours so this week’s 5.7M hours is an increase of roughly 130%.

Time will tell if this success continues, but the future is certainly looking a touch brighter for the Overwatch League.

eSports Week In Review | Franchising: Who Made The Cut, NBA 2K League, Twitch Top 10

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | FRANCHISING: WHO MADE THE CUT, NBA 2K LEAGUE, TWITCH TOP 10

eSports Week In Review (Photo: Pixabay)

eSports Week In Review (Photo: Pixabay)

TNL Take: The past month has seen a slew of eSports franchising news for both Activision-Blizzard's Overwatch League and Riot Games' NALCS and this week we took a deeper dive into which teams made both leagues. Also the Twitch Top 10 for the past week and how the NBA 2K League is looking to drive success via SportBusiness.

 

MONDAY 10/23

eSports Franchising: Who Made The Cut - NALCS

eSports Franchising: NALCS (Graphic: The Next Level)

eSports Franchising: NALCS (Graphic: The Next Level)

eSports Franchising: Who Made The Cut (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

eSports Franchising: Who Made The Cut (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

Riot.jpg
eSports Franchising: Who Made The Cut - Overwatch League (Graphic: The Next Level)

eSports Franchising: Who Made The Cut - Overwatch League (Graphic: The Next Level)

NBA 2K League (Photo: 2K Games)

NBA 2K League (Photo: 2K Games)

 

Have a great weekend!

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports

EA MADDEN, NFL, AMAZON, MOBILE AND ESPORTS

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

This is one of three big changes to EA's Club Series with NFL pro teams. While last year started with 8 - Bills, Jaguars, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers and the 49ers - this year, it expands to all 32 NFL teams.

 

/02 PRIZE POOL

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

The second big change is the amount of money on the line. Last year's 8 total events were for $10K each along with the Club Finals with a $50K prize pool, bringing 2017's total to ~$130K.

Madden 18's Club Championship total prize pool of $400K+ more than triples last year's total...with a catch.

 

/03 STRUCTURE

In addition to the Club Series Finals being held at Pro Bowl Experience in Orlando, the winner will also receive 2 tickets to Super Bowl LII - another sign of the NFL's involvement.

 

 

/04 TWITCH PRIME

Now is where things start to get really fun.

This past Saturday morning  I found something very interesting posted and tweeted the following:

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

The reception from the community was overwhelmingly positive and a YouTube video made just around my Tweet has 20,000+ views currently:

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

I've talked plenty about how Twitch Prime is genius and the ability to lure in publishers is so critical and this is another example.

 

/05 AMAZON'S NFL PROGRAMMING

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

In April, Twitch owner Amazon signed a partnership with the NFL for $50M to stream 10 Thursday night games to Amazon Prime members.

Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime.

If 500K people sign up for Amazon Prime to get access to the NFL content, Amazon breaks even on the media rights. Even if they don't, it's more marketing and programming for their content chest.

 

/06 MADDEN MOBILE

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

One of the least publicized success stories in the mobile gaming space is Madden Mobile. During the NFL season the game is consistently in the Top 10 grossing on the App Store.

Go ahead and check where it is right now.

Amazon has invested greatly with Vainglory and mobile eSports and there's further opportunity here as well.

 

/07 TICKETING

I covered this last week with Amazon's potential disruption of another industry - ticketing - and the huge eSports opportunity that it holds.

Now add NFL ticket purchases and all the additional value provided with the points above.

 

/08 NFL INVOLVEMENT

Don't discount the NFL finally getting into eSports and putting their name, marketing and executives behind this initiative.

The NFL is the 800-pound gorilla on top of the media and sports food chain.

 

THE REAL DEAL

 

It's great to see the largest and most popular US sports league jump into the eSports pool.

Now add in cross promotion between EA Madden, watching Thursday NFL games on Amazon, Twitch Prime integration, Mobile, the NFL's marketing machine and the vision starts to emerge.

 

But here's the reality.

 

/01 It’s nowhere close to what Activision-Blizzard is building with their Overwatch League, Riot Games’ North American League of Legends League or the upcoming NBA 2K ELEAGUE with more than half of the pro teams included.

For both the NFL and EA to emulate OWL, LOL, and NBA2KELEAGUE in such a short amount of time would have been a herculean task.  The information for the Madden 18 competitive season was released less than a week before the game launches.

 

/02 The total EA Madden NFL 18 prize pool increased from $1.000M to just $1.153M. EA should clear $750M+ in Ultimate Team earnings from primarily FIFA and Madden this year with continued growth.

Even the Club Series total while seeming high at $400K is the total for 32 teams - when looked at on an individual basis it's also a slight increase over last years $10K prize pool each.

A slight prize pool increase and fewer Athletes being flown out to events - while Ultimate Team dollars continue to flow in.

 

/03 No details were revealed around either Digital or TV distribution but I'd be shocked if the Madden 18 Championships were not either on a Disney platform or The NFL Network.

 

04/ Brands - where are they?

While last years Club Series did have brands present like Gillette and the Patriots, these deals were either added value or for very little revenue.

 

/05 This is the biggest difference between the 3 major upcoming eSports leagues and what European soccer teams are doing with their investment.

While the winners get a much larger prize pool, entry to the Madden 18 Championships and a slew of benefits, what happens with “NFL Club Winner” after this?

This program isn’t like being officially sponsored by a Paris St. Germain, which has many FIFA Athletes represent the club and provide the “3 M’s Of Why Pro Sports Teams Invest In eSports”™ - Marketing, Merchandising and Monetization.

 

Whichever NFL pro team does decide to become the innovator and begin emulating their European counterparts will start seeing the ROI with real investment in the eSports space much  more quickly than the next teams that will quickly follow suit.