Game developer Activision Blizzard is chasing TV budgets by making it easier for advertisers to compare esports and traditional sports audience behavior.
The games developer is sharing viewing numbers for the last two regular seasons of its flagship esports event, the Overwatch League. Rather than use concurrent views to show the size of its audience like other players in the space, Activision Blizzard is using average minute audience, the metric broadcasters use to show the reach of their sports coverage during live broadcasts.
In a nutshell, Activision Blizzard takes the total minutes watched of an event and divides it by the length of the live broadcast to show the average number of viewers at any minute of Overwatch League. It’s based on the way Nielsen measures live TV and so should make it easier for buyers to compare the league directly to traditional sports on linear TV.
Once marketers make the comparison between online streams and linear broadcasts, the hope is they will move more money over to esports. That’s because esports’ viewership among the hard-to-reach 18- to 34-years-olds in the U.S. appears to be growing at a faster rate than the biggest traditional sports like basketball and hockey, according to Nielsen data cited by Activision Blizzard.
The latest regular season of college basketball in the U.S. was watched by 72,000 people on average in the 18-to-34-year-old bracket at any time, while the National Hockey League’s regular season had a slightly higher following in the same demographic at 74,000, according to Nielsen. Both sports were ahead of the Overwatch League’s regular season in the U.S., where 55,000 of them watched it on average at any given time it was on, per Nielsen. Despite trailing both basketball and hockey, Overwatch League is the fastest-growing league among 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S, with an 11% increase on last year’s season viewership.