eSports On TV: What Do The Ratings Mean?


Just a Family Watching eSports on TV (Photo: Kotaku)

TNL Take: Now that we're done talking about Super Bowl 51's ratings and God's son performing a miracle  ("Despite Overtime, Ratings Drop!", "Lowest Ratings In 3 Years!", "Lady Gaga Beats Brady!" , "Cheaters!"), let's take some time reflect on another accomplishment this weekend: eSports aired across several TV networks and ESPN's 1st broadcast directly against The Big Game™.

Here are the numbers:

eSports On TV 2017 (Infographic: The Next Level)

So what's this all mean?

As usual, let's start with the qualification: It's very early days with minimal data, so any attempt at analysis or future ratings is an educated guess at best.



Madden Bowl at Super Bowl LI (Photo: Bob Levey/Getty)

Madden Bowl at Super Bowl LI (Photo: Bob Levey/Getty)

Looking at what the NFL Network aired the previous Friday at the same time, Madden Bowl increased Viewership by 57% in 18-49 Viewers:

NFL Network Madden vs. Previous Friday Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

However on the Spanish language broadcast on Univision Deportes, it performed worse than the 1st Madden event in 2016:

EA Madden NFL eSports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

Further, take the following points into account:

  • Still early days for Madden eSports
  • Comparing Madden against a long established eSports franchise like Counter-Strike
  • Madden's Fri Night time slot vs. Sunday Morning for Counter-Strike

From a programming perspective and without knowing the content costs, this looks like a win for Madden eSports and NFL Network by only getting 20% fewer viewers than ELEAGUE's Major.



EA Sports FIFA Paris Regionals (Photo: EA Sports)

The Paris Regional Finals for EA Sports FIFA 17 drew the most Media coverage as it would be not only be the 1st eSports program on ESPN's flagship channel but also directly against Super Bowl 51.

However it looks like the FIFA 17 tournament didn't match last years ESPN Super Bowl counter-programming against a Spike Lee special:

ESPN 2016 and 2017 Super Bowl Counter-Programming (Chart: The Next Level)

In addition, the FIFA 17 Paris Regional would have ranked #22 out of 24 when compared with the 2016 eSports programs on TV.

So is that a failure for FIFA?

Not at all. Again, still very early days and even with those low numbers still garnered 40%+ of the audience of ELEAGUE's biggest eSports event while going against the Super Bowl.

We've just started February and already have had 5 eSports programs on TV; not including what the Big Ten Network has aired already.


2017 is on pace to beat 2016's 20+ eSports programs on TV. Let's keep going.