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NFL

Fox Sports Is Airing An Esports Madden

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Fox Sports is airing an esports Madden NFL Invitational event today

Last week, it was revealed that NASCAR would hold an esports event in place of the actual races it had to cancel because of the coronavirus outbreaks in the US. In an announcement on Saturday, Fox Sports revealed that the NFL is similarly embracing esports during this time with its upcoming Madden NFL Invitational. This event will air on Fox Sports today, March 29, on behalf of the CDC Foundation.

Starting at 7 PM ET / 4 PM PT, Fox Sports will air a two-hour Madden NFL Invitational esports event, the first one of its kind. Fox says this event is designed to raise awareness for the CDC Foundation, specifically its efforts in combating the current outbreaks of COVID-19 in the US.

The esports event will involve a Madden NFL 20 tournament with a total of seven matches played in three rounds. Eight NFL stars are on board to participate in the Invitational, including Michael Vick, Orlando Scandrick, Ahman Green, Juju Smith-Schuster, T.J Houshmandzadeh, and others. Rachel Bonnetta and Chris Myers have been tapped to host the event.

This will be a single-elimination game shown as a telecast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1). The CDC Foundation will be highlighted throughout the two-hour event with options for viewers to lend their support to the Foundation’s response to the coronavirus. Funds will go toward helping expand lab capacity, supporting at-risk communities, boosting local responses, and more.

 

Twitch partners with Comscore

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Twitch partners with Comscore on esports audience data

 

Amazon’s live streaming platform Twitch will provide more data about esports and gaming viewership as part of a deal with Comscore. The media measurement company will quantify video metrics such as minutes spent and content minutes per ad minute on Twitch, per an announcement.

Comscore will provide third-party data and insights into Twitch’s audiences in the U.S. and Canada, with the goal of helping advertisers to understand the video consumption habits of those consumers. The data can help marketers to identify key audience segments and adjust their ad campaigns to reach consumers.​

Comscore is also working to expand its integration with Twitch to additional markets and to offer advertisers category- and genre-level audience data. The goal is to help advertisers understand viewership trends in live-streamed gaming and esports, Carol Hinnant, chief revenue officer at Comscore, said in a statement.

 

Insight:

 

As brands look for ways to reach Twitch’s growing audience for live-streamed gaming and esports programming, they could welcome more capabilities around third-party data, which can help measure the effectiveness of campaigns and hone marketing strategies. By working with Comscore, Twitch is taking a step to provide more transparency about the viewing habits of its audiences, including how much time they spend watching sponsorship messages and live-streamed content.

That information helps to provide a more complete picture of Twitch’s user base, which researcher eMarketer forecast could grow by 14% to 37.5 million this year and reach about 16% of the U.S. audience for digital video. Part of that growth can be attributed to Twitch’s expansion beyond video game streaming and into live events.

Twitch this week signed a three-year deal with the National Women’s Soccer League to stream regular-season games within the U.S., and the entire season outside the country. Twitch has also streamed NFL, NBA G League and National Women’s Hockey League games. However, Twitch also faces growing competition from YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming and Microsoft Mixer, which have expanded their audiences and lured away popular influencers and content creators that initially gained fame and followers on Twitch.

Additionally, Comscore’s data could help glean more insights into the audience for esports events, whose viewership is set to surge more than 50% to 46.2 million viewers by 2023, eMarketer forecast last year. More complete data about esports audiences can help to support industry growth as sponsors seek to measure ROI and other metrics.

Brands looking to reach these millions of fans were expected to boost sponsorship spending by 34% to $457 million last year, games researcher Newzoo predicted. Already, brands such as AT&T, Axe, Hershey and Snickers have piled into esports sponsorships to connect with younger audiences who are elusive to other media outlets.

 

Major Leagues Have Entered eSports

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Major leagues have entered eSports, but how many will watch?

 

In a windowless room in downtown Washington, the city’s most promising new basketballers are honing their skills and readying to compete against adversaries they sometimes don’t even meet.

There are no hoops or balls in the practice room of Wizards District Gaming, just video monitors and consoles loaded with NBA 2K20, the basketball simulation that the team’s eSports athletes use to compete with adversaries from across the United States. “I wake up in the morning and my biggest concern is playing video games. I don’t think that’s a hard life if you ask me,” said Ryan Conger, known on the six-man squad by his online handle Dayfri.

Video games are now the largest entertainment industry in the world, and innovations like live streaming have made eSports a global phenomenon. The largest competitions have had tens of millions of viewers watching competitors battle for millions of dollars in prizes. The most popular games are fantasy- or shooter-themed, but the competitions’ success has attracted the interest of the major US sports leagues.

Along with the NBA, hockey’s NHL, football’s NFL and Major League Soccer are, to varying degrees, organizing tournaments and sometimes encouraging teams to sign eSports players — like they would any other athlete. “I knew I was going to make it to the NHL,” said John Casagranda, who wanted to compete on the ice but found more success in video games. He is now signed to the Washington Capitals.

“That was always my dream growing up, so now to be able to do it in a video game, I mean, it’s pretty surreal.” Yet thus far, online sports simulation matches attract far fewer viewers than other games, and analysts question whether they will ever be more than just marketing for the major leagues, who remain titans in American sporting life.

“People don’t seem to care, quite yet,” said Will Hershey, chief executive of Roundhill Investments, a firm that has specialized in eSports. “Speaking transparently, I’m a little bit skeptical as to if they ever will.” 

– As big as sports –

Licensed major league sports simulations have existed since the 1980s, and as eSports has grown in recent years, the NFL now has a competitive series for players of Madden, while the NHL stages its Gaming World Championship (GWC) right before its yearly awards event. The NBA 2K League is robust, with 23 teams competing this year. To play for the Wizards, 23-year-old Conger gets paid $37,500 over six months and stays in a free apartment.

Playing as JohnWaynee, 29-year-old Casagranda is the only eSports player signed to a NHL team, but competes independently and lives in Alaska, holding down a job at an airline in between practicing two to three hours per day and as much as 12 hours on weekends. The goal for teams is not just to win competitions, but also to get people watching their players practice and appear at events over live streaming sites like Twitch.

In a recent practice match, Casagranda played against the Columbus Blue Jackets on a three-person team along with a team official and the Capitals’ bald eagle mascot Slapshot. About 226 people watched the match as it happened on Twitch, which ended with the Capitals losing in a blowout, partly because Slapshot played in bulky costume-wearing talon-like gloves, inhibiting their ability to hold the controller.

“Twitch is monetizing big audiences very differently,” said Zach Leonsis, senior vice president of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Wizards and Capitals. “I think we do look to eSports as reaching a brand new audience and reaching an audience that we may never touch with our traditional sports teams.” 

– Competition for eyeballs –

Analysts question whether it can be much more than that. Online simulated sports “represents a relatively modest marketing investment to engage a younger audience who might not be exposed to the team otherwise,” said Remer Rietkerk, head of eSports at Newzoo, a video game research firm.

The final match of the NHL’s GWC last year brought in 632,907 unique viewers, an increase of more than 190 percent from the year before, according to league statistics. But game seven of the real-world 2019 Stanley Cup Final had 8.9 million viewers. And the world championship series final for online battle arena game League of Legends had, at its peak, 44 million people watching.

The major leagues aren’t giving up. The free version of NBA 2K has about 44 million users in China, the league’s managing director Brendan Donohue said in an interview, and he expects to launch divisions in Asia and Europe in the coming years.

“My son became a fan of Steph Curry and LeBron James playing 2K,” he said, referring to the two basketball superstars. “In terms of the speed, of the growth in terms of the number of teams, it’s a very successful affiliate league.”