Esports is overrun with sensationalist headlines about viewership. As different streaming services use unique ways to track viewers, many different metrics quantify how popular esports events are. Peak concurrents, total hours and average viewers are all popular choices.
As long as viewership was being compared in the same terms, there wasn’t an issue. But when media began comparing esports viewership to sports viewership, headlines like “League of Legends is bigger than the Super Bowl” began popping up. That isn’t true.
In reality, the LCS is the third most popular sports league among Americans ages 18-34. That’s nothing to scoff at – but it’s not the Super Bowl. These apples to oranges comparisons plagued esports, but lately, that’s started to change.
In the last year, Nielsen, the company that provides TV ratings on linear television, has focused on esports. Both Activision Blizzard and Riot Games are using Nielsen’s Average Minute Audience (AMA) metric to show how popular their esports are.
“It’s a core competency for the maturity of esports in general,” said Matt Archambault, Head of North American Partnerships for Riot Games. “When you have a multitude of publishers and everyone is throwing out different metrics, it makes it very difficult for partners and teams to understand the actual true health of that product.”
Especially as Riot brings in brands like Mastercard, State Farm, and Nike, accurate data is crucial to clarify the value of these partnerships. By delivering viewership in terms that these companies know from sports, Riot is able to break down one of the key hurdles in getting major non-endemic brands into esports.
“These metrics are helping open the door for endemic-adjacent brands (brands in traditional sports), these metrics provide the baseline to show the value of a sponsorship,” said Archambault.
While Nielsen has been working with Riot for a long time, now they are expanding the partnership to include VODs. Given the global nature of League of Legends, many fans aren’t able to watch matches live. Now Nielsen will be able to include VOD viewership in the total AMA for a given match. Nielsen calls it Live+. While a crucial service in esports, Nielsen will likely continue experimenting with expanding into VOD content in traditional sports as cord-cutting continues to drive down ratings.
Article and Podcast by Mitch Reames