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Volume 22 No. 31
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OWL confident in using different audience metrics

Overwatch League worked with Nielsen to provide average-minute-audience metrics for the esports property, which will make for easier comparisons to traditional sports.
Photo: Getty Images

The Overwatch League knows it is sacrificing splashier headlines by using Nielsen’s average-minute-audience figures as its viewership metric, but the property is confident the move will pay off.


OWL began working with Nielsen in April 2018 to start making the switch, as Activision Blizzard Esports executives felt the property would be best served by making its viewership metrics compatible with traditional sports, helping sponsors and investors to feel more confident and trusting in the data from the property.

The switch is notable because, for leagues like OWL, it could mean it will have less gaudy figures to report than some of the traditional esports metrics such as views, peak concurrents or hours watched. OWL released numbers last week indicating that for the 2019 regular season, its broadcasts on digital and linear platforms combined averaged 313,000 viewers globally and 95,000 in the U.S., of which 55,000 viewers in the U.S. were in the 18-34 demo.

Activision Blizzard and Nielsen executives feel resolute that the move is the right one, and some other industry executives spoke in support of the move.

“We believe multiplayer entertainment is the future of live video, so using comparable metrics to measure success is imperative,” said Nathan Lindberg, Twitch’s senior director of global sponsorships. “Twitch believes that AMA, as an industry-standard metric, will make buying esports on Twitch easier and more defensible for agencies and brands, accelerating the space’s monumental growth.”

Activision Blizzard is particularly encouraged by how Nielsen said its data shows that OWL is the fastest-growing league in the 18-34 demo in the U.S. The demo is crucial for advertisers, and for Activation Blizzard, it reinforces how switching to average minute audience ultimately will pay off for OWL.

Using different metrics to judge the same event can lead to different takeaways. For example, OWL said it had a reach of more than 13 million for the opening week of its 2019 season, while its average minute audience was 440,000. For the Stage 2 finals this year on ABC, OWL earned an average minute audience of more than 500,000, making it the most-watched esports broadcast ever across the ESPN/ABC linear networks.

“Average minute audience is not going to be a huge number; it’s not going to be as big as views or hours watched — a number that’s close to a billion — but it’s a number that’s completely apples to apples to other numbers that people will see out there,” said Kasra Jafroodi, Activision Blizzard Esports’ lead of strategy and analytics. “While the story out there isn’t, ‘Overwatch League is bigger than the Super Bowl,’ it’s still pretty good.”

For OWL teams selling sponsorship, and for the corporations buying the ad assets, the switch to average minute audience should be beneficial, according to Chris DeAppolonio, president of the Houston Outlaws.

“Most of the potential partners we speak with are already spending in traditional sports and, like it or not, they are going to compare their esports partnerships against their sports partnerships,” said DeAppolonio. “Having data that is easier to both understand and compare should only help our case.”

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