September 7, 2019

Overwatch League’s Season 2 Viewership Says Good Things About the League

The Overwatch League is a hit. For people paying attention to esports that won’t come as a surprise. The Activision Blizzard league with massive franchise fees, teams spread around the globe, and a diehard fan base is having a successful second season. With a move towards a Homestand Weekend format in 2020, the next challenge for the OWL is on the horizon. 

Measuring the success of an esports league is a tough challenge. In the traditional sports world, viewership is measured by Nielsen ratings. The impartial third party is who the industry turns to when measuring the success of an individual event, Nielsen ratings are used by networks, advertisers and the media constantly. 

Now, esports is catching up. For a long time esports viewership was the wild west. Twitch (and other streaming platforms) all tracked viewership differently and leagues could pick and choose statistics that told the best story about the product they were putting out. Metrics like peak concurrent viewers, unique viewers and total minutes watched told impressive stories about the popularity of esports, but often they weren’t telling the whole story. 

Apple-to-orange comparisons led to statements like “League of Legends is bigger than the Super Bowl.” Except, that wasn’t true, and to Riot’s credit that statement didn’t come from an internal source. 

 

The Birth of AMA

Now esports is catching up to the rest of the sporting world by working with Nielsen to come up with a new metric to measure esports viewership. This new metric is Average Minute Audience or AMA for short. The math is simple, take the total minutes watched and divide it by the total minutes broadcast. That is the same equation Nielsen uses for their ratings, now they are bringing it to the largest esports leagues. 

Both Activision Blizzard and Riot are now using AMA to measure the popularity of their esports events. Earlier this week, Activision Blizzard released AMA stats on viewership for the second season of the OWL, and they tell a good story about the league. 

Some highlights:

  • OWL’s 2019 regular season ended with a global AMA of 313k, up 18 percent YoY.
  • The USA AMA for the season was 95k AMA, up 34 percent YoY.
  • The 18-34 US AMA for the season was 55k AMA, up 11 percent YoY.
  • The Overwatch League is the fastest growing league among the 18-34-year-old demo in the USA.
  • The Overwatch League is the only major sports league in the USA to be up in the 18-34 demo in the USA YoY in 2019 (up 11 percent).

It’s those last two bullet points that have Activision Blizzard so excited. Everyone knows that the esports audience trends young, and that’s what makes it such an interesting investment opportunity. These are some of the clearest stats that show how esports leagues are growing in popularity. This starkly contrasts many of the major traditional sports leagues that are on the decline. 

The AMA Doesn’t Lie

Thanks to this new metric, we can finally accurately compare the data from esports events to traditional sports viewership. No, Overwatch League is not bigger than the Super Bowl, nor the NBA Finals.  However, they are gaining ground on some of the other sports leagues. 

“55,000 in the 18-34 U.S. demographic actually makes us bigger than the MLB and MLS in that demo,”said Kasra Jafroodi, Strategy and Analytics Lead at Activision Blizzard Esports in an interview with Adweek. “That’s a very positive story. We’re not bigger than the Super Bowl, but the fact that the Overwatch League in its second year is already bigger than two well-established leagues is a big deal.”

The most important thing about these numbers? They’re accurate. The days of inflated and inconsistent viewership numbers are over and everyone who has money invested in esports should be happy about that fact. 

Credit: Mitch Reames

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