Madden Esports TV Viewership Drops

TNL Take: Without further ado, let's jump into the latest esports TV ratings.

Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)


TV programming is definitely challenging and even more so for esports. The Madden Bowl, the finals for 2018's Ultimate League, garnered only 128,000 total viewers which was about half that watched the Madden Club Championship in February and a far cry from the #1 program for 2017 with 670,000.

Why the drop in viewership?

There could be several factors for this. First, Madden Bowl went up against the NBA playoffs but didn't get the lead in benefit that ELEAGUE saw a few weeks earlier from the NCAA tournament. Second, while Saturday primetime is better than late Friday nights, the Madden Club Championship was on a Thursday night with little competition. Finally, there was plenty of Madden scheduled throughout Ultimate League's multi-month season starting with Twitch broadcasts on Tuesday's, DisneyXD on Thursday's and culminating in the Finals on ESPN2. Viewer fatigue may have played another factor as well.



ELEAGUE continued it's first reality show series with The Challenger: Street Fighter V and hit just under 200,000 viewers. This type of shoulder content has performed well for ELEAGUE and has made up a majority of their programming for this year. The May 5th edition aired at 2am and we'll see if the Stars Wars marathon provides any viewership lead in.

ELEAGUE Has Highest Rated Show With NCAA Lead In

TNL Take: Why is there a picture of the NCAA tournament? We'll get to that below.

Let's jump right in and look at the final esports TV ratings for Q1 2018:

2018 Q1 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

2018 Q1 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)


This past week saw ELEAGUE surge into the #1 slot with 413,000 viewers for Episode 2 of their shoulder content "Tekken Team Takedown". When did the show air on the East Coast?  1:50AM.  

How did ELEAGUE see such great performance?

I posted the chart to Twitter and that brought forth the inevitable similar comments.

Well I slipped on a crucial datapoint - the NCAA tournament lead in programming - as mentioned by former The Next Level analyst Jordan Fragen. 

The late night game between Purdue and Texas Tech starting at 10PM garnered 2.7M people and the post game show at 12:40AM brought in 1.4M viewers; which equals 50% retention from show-to-show.

What's interesting is that from the Post Game Show to "Tekken Team Takedown" had a viewer retention rate of 30% - 1.4M viewers to 413K. The 413K viewers would have been the #1 rated ELEAGUE show for the past 2 years also beating last year's Street Fighter V Finals.

This is to take nothing away from the production value of the show or the rabid FGC community but a huge lead in definitely helps.

Was that Tekken/ELEAGUE fans staying up to watch it at that late slot (probably some) or was it a new audience coming in from the NCAA tournament (probably more so)?

If it was more likely the latter, this bodes well for future esports shoulder content on TV helping to find new viewership.

For those willing to experiment.



Unfortunately no data available for Madden's Ultimate League debut on Disney XD which started in February and runs through April.

There have been ~8 episodes that have aired and last year Disney XD aired 60+ esports episodes across a wide variety of content. Those 60+ shows generated an average of ~100,000 viewers per episode; so taking a rough guess, Madden Ultimate League is probably in the ballpark but would need definitive Nielsen data for confirmation.

2018 Esports TV Ratings

TNL Take: Last year saw a huge increase in esports programs on TV with well over 100 across numerous channels.

2017 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

2017 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

Let's take a look at what 2018 has delivered so far.

2018 Q1 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

2018 Q1 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)


Madden continues its run as a very popular esport for TV. Considering that ESPN2's audience is already familiar with football makes sense as to why it performs so well. Even the Madden Club Championship winner Gos stated that Madden belongs on TV and with the ESPN/Disney deal, we will see more programs this year.



ELEAGUE's esports content programming outside of tournaments ranked high in 2017 and remains the same for 2018. The "Road to the Boston Major", a 5 part behind-the-scenes series on teams and their players, has performed well and higher than several programs last year. Episode 1 was against the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony and the remaining 3 episodes should garner 200K+ viewers.

While the ELEAGUE Major wasn't shown on TV, it absolutely killed it on Twitch, setting a new record for viewership on a single channel with 1.1M+ peak concurrents.



Australia's E-League (Photo: Twitter)

Australia's E-League (Photo: Twitter)

There was a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald that caught my eye stating that "FIFA 18 is proving more popular viewing than actual A-League matches; attracted a larger audience than the average ratings for the competition".

Did FIFA esports really beat its traditional counterpart?

Digging in a little deeper was the classic comparison of digital viewers vs. TV viewers, with Twitch grabbing 138,000 viewers compared with the average A-League audience of 119,000. However, assuming 100,000 average concurrent users for FIFA would still be impressive and in sight of A-League's audience.

2017 Esports Predictions Review: TV


2017 Esports Predictions: TV (Photo: Cesar Level)

2017 Esports Predictions: TV (Photo: Cesar Level)

TNL Take: As this year comes to a close, this week The Next Level will review our 2017 predictions and score how well we did.

Here were the 5 predictions made for esports and TV:


/01 20+ esports events in 2016. We may see double that this year.

2017 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

2017 Esports TV Ratings (Chart: The Next Level)

We had more than double esports programs on DisneyXD alone this year.  

Across the board we will have seen 100+ esports programs on TV in 2017 and a huge increase from 2016. The Top 25 are listed above but expect to see Madden show up near the top when it debuts on The CW next week.



/02 More broadcast deals as Publishers look to monetize their content

The trend for exclusive esports content continued in 2017. Facebook had several deals including partnerships with Blizzard's Heroes of the Dorm, G2 Esports, 76'ers owned Team Dignitas, ESL, PUBG and Hi-Rez Studios for Paladins Premier League.

YouTube Gaming also picked up a few exclusives including ESL's English language streams for Counter-Strike, a new partnership with Faceit and a slew of product developments

Twitter also announced they would livestream 1,500 hours of esports content this year and we saw many TV broadcast deals as well.



/03 Another OTT deal such as MLBam and Riot's $300M deal

League of Legends at Madison Square Garden (Photo: Riot Games)

League of Legends at Madison Square Garden (Photo: Riot Games)

December of last year, we saw a huge partnership between BAMTech and Riot Games to the tune of $300M

We still don't know the full distribution list for both Overwatch League and NBA 2K League but expect both of those to be announced soon.

We did see the announcement of the WHAM Network for a 24/7 esports and gaming lifestyle channel along with ESPN's upcoming OTT launch which should include esports content but neither launched in 2017.


/04 More Sports esports on TV like Madden, FIFA and NBA2K

EA Madden NFL On The CW (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Madden NFL On The CW (Photo: EA Sports)

Last year saw only 2 esports sports programs on TV with Madden 17 and FIFA 17. In 2017, including re-runs, sports esports included 14 programs. FIFA was shown on ESPN, the first time esports has been shown on the flagship channel.

Further, the EA Madden NFL Challenge will have a 1-hour special on The CW on December 27th and should see strong ratings.

A massive increase in sports esports on TV compared to 2016.



/05 EVO will be bigger and more fighting esports content

EVO 2017 was bigger than EVO 2016 when taking into account that this year was shown on ESPN2, Disney XD along with repeats on ESPNU

More fighting content? Yes with the airing of both Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros Finals.



2017 Esports on TV Prediction Score: 4 out of 5