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The Future of esports, as Influenced by Streaming TV

esports
(Image credit: Peter Suciu)

The rise of esports has been astronomical, and that’s no secret, with many of today’s prominent universities even investing in the category. The tremendous growth trajectory has taken the media and entertainment industry by storm, with surveys predicting the esports audience will grow to 434 million viewers this year. 

Its popularity seemingly increased during the pandemic at a time when content consumption was at an all-time high and many viewers, trapped at home, were craving new forms of entertainment escapism. The void left by the cancellation of live sports events helped accelerate the rise of esports, especially as streaming became one of the only few ways to deliver new content.

It's expected that the esports streaming and gaming industry will grow to $3.5 billion by the end of 2025. As esports continues to become more relevant, has the streaming TV industry taken full advantage of this massive market? 

With the world streaming more now than ever, it's important to explore how esports has impacted the television industry to date, and where the market could improve as the media & entertainment industry looks toward a post-pandemic era. Additionally, where does future innovation and potential lie for the esports category in the world of streaming TV?

The power of esports today
From the Super Bowl to the Olympics, television was once the go to source for the world's most notable live sporting events for at-home viewers. However, much like anything else, change is inevitable and innovation is necessary to survival. The accessibility and connectivity of esports has made the events irresistible to viewers. 

Esports has evolved into a new content format for all, and millennials and Gen Zers in particular have gravitated towards this format. It’s evident that through streaming, esports is putting interconnectivity at the forefront of the future of media consumption. 

Esports has traditionally been seen as a niche market, but it has, in a relatively short time, helped larger media platforms, like Twitch, gain prominence. Now, the question becomes, how does the rise of esports impact the streaming TV market? 

Unlocking the untapped potential of esports in the world of streaming TV
The pandemic saw an explosion in esports streaming growth with reports citing that Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook Gaming all reported significant increases with online viewing in 2020. Streaming TV saw its own surges, with reports now indicating that any gains the streaming TV market experienced during the height of global lockdowns are likely permanent.

As the streaming TV category continues to grow to reach new, heightened viewership figures, we can only expect that esports will grow as a new and emerging category on both paid and free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms. There is clearly the demand, and streaming TV offers up the potential to expand the esports category deeper than it's ever gone before; channels dedicated to the games themselves, to esports analysis, to dissecting the key players and their career trajectories, and more. 

As esports continues to establish itself as a major category in sports entertainment, it will have its own stars, analysts, and key tentpole moments. What esports can become in today’s streaming TV world is what traditional sports are on linear TV: a category’s worth of content dedicated toward everything from live events to key replays to industry insights, all projected at a national, local, and college level. The added benefit to esports’ expansion into the streaming TV market? Encouraging further interactivity across platforms. 

Looking toward what's ahead for esports
Today, esports athletes are playing multiplayer games on one platform, and then connecting with each other to comment and collaborate on another platform, like Discord. Tomorrow and into the future, if streaming providers do this right, we could see streaming TV platforms provide live streams of the games, while viewers connect and interact on other platforms, like Twitter and Discord. This can become the next esports ecosystem—a go-to hub for fans and gamers to interact.

Further, there is a real opportunity to increase the revenue within this market through the monetization of viewership and sponsorships through streaming TV platforms. It all points back to interconnectivity. We know streaming TV is the future of entertainment viewing. As momentum around esports continues to gain ground, the door is open to endless opportunities. 

Perhaps we will see VR technology step onto the scene and not only provide an added layer of engagement, but shake up everything as we know it. If one thing is certain, it’s that the future potential of esports in the streaming TV era is vast, and the opportunity is ripe for the taking.

Navdeep Saini

Navdeep Saini is co-founder and CEO of DistroScale, parent company of DistroTV