Viewership indicators in esports vs. traditional sports
Unlike television, there is no standardized measurement system for esports viewership. This can lead to confusion or outright misrepresentation of the size of the esports audience. Here’s a guide to the key viewership metrics for both esports and traditional sports.
• Peak or max concurrent viewers: The greatest number of viewers tuned into a broadcast simultaneously. Note, this is not equivalent to the overall, unique viewers who watched a broadcast. This is the most widely accepted viewership benchmark for esports.
• Average concurrent viewers: The average number of viewers tuned into a broadcast. At its core, this is the statistic that Nielsen television ratings are based on. Thus, this is the statistic that most people use when referring to viewership for traditional sports.
• Why is peak viewership the standard for esports rather than average viewership? Average concurrent viewership has not been widely adopted by esports for three reasons.
First, average concurrent viewership is more useful and easier to calculate over a defined time period. A three-hour TV broadcast has a defined start time and a definitive end time. Esports broadcasts tend to have more loose broadcast periods. What’s more, they tend to lack lead-in programming due to the nature of online streaming, instead using countdown timers prior to tournament broadcasts.
Second, average concurrent viewership tends to be much more difficult to determine for esports, especially compared to peak viewers. In addition to the problems introduced with start times, a broadcast’s average concurrent viewership number is not generally available to the public without access to a database. In contrast, anyone can take a screen shot of the concurrent viewer number on Twitch to determine peak concurrents. Keep in mind that numbers displayed on Twitch are not totally accurate, but currently there is little incentive to move away from the metric.
Finally, average concurrent viewers lead to less impressive numbers for esports. Put simply, due to being part of a growing industry, it benefits those exposing numbers to focus on the more impressive-looking statistic.
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