Today, the majority of professional sports games are broadcast through television networks. Channels like Comcast Sports Network, MASN, and any one of the ESPN channels are dedicated to broadcasting only sports related content here in America. When it comes to eSports, however, there is currently no network which will broadcast professional tournaments. Instead, these tournaments are live streamed over the internet.
Live streaming is the process of broadcasting a live video feed over the internet. In eSports, live streaming is used to broadcast not only professional games, but also practices, exhibitions, and more. This method has been used for eSports for a multitude of reasons:
- Ease of access for the viewers
- International accessibility
- Convenience for the streamers
- Economically viable
When deciding on a content distribution method, a large factor that should be taken into consideration is the viewers ease of access to the content. According to Nielson, 99% of American households have at least one television. Thus, traditional sports are able to reach a wide audience through television broadcasts. According to the Nation Telecommunications and Information Administration, 72.4% of American households have high speed internet. While this number may be lower than the number of households with a television, it is still a staggering 88 million households. One should also keep in mind that this number only counts the number of American households with high speed internet. Traditional television broadcasts are typically limited to the country of origin. While it would be very uncommon for a European or Asian country to receive an American sports broadcast such as an NFL game, it would not be surprising for those countries to receive an American live stream. As long as one has an internet connection, one is able to pull up a live stream from anywhere in the world. In a smaller scale though, this means that the viewer is not limited to the living room, the typical location for a television. On any capable internet connective device, one can pull up a stream whether that device be at a store or a social gathering. Giving the viewer the choice of how and where to watch a game will make them more open to viewing a live game.
Live streaming is not only a method that provides convenient access for the viewer, but it is also a convenient distribution method for organizations that host professional eSports tournaments. When broadcasting on television, the organization will have to work the game into a specific time slot since other content will come directly before and after the game. The network is not dedicated for the specific game. However, this is dramatically different for live streaming. The majority of the time, most live streams do not run unless started for specific purposes. As such, each organization usually has its own stream which will only be up when a game is occurring. This gives the organizations the luxury of not needing to worry about time constraints. This also means that any number of advertisements may be placed during the game without worry of running over time.
Live streaming is not limited to large organizations. Anyone with a computer is able to live stream. Since this is possible, many professional eSports players stream practice matches and solo games for the world to see. At any point in time, there are hundreds of streams located on the internet. One of the largest game streaming sites which many organizations and players use is Twitch TV. On Twitch TV, many players will stream their practice matches. One of the reasons Twitch is used is their ad system.
Any Twitch stream with an constant average of 500+ viewers is able to become a Twitch partner. Once a partner, the streamer is able to play advertisements for the viewers, thus making ad revenue. Because eSports is still a relatively new career path where the players may have unreliable incomes, many players will use Twitch to make a steady income based on viewership numbers. In addition, companies can safely market to a niche audience. The majority of viewers will have an interest in video games, technology, and also browse the internet. Through these streams, companies are able to target a very specific set of the general population. As a result, their ads will have better return rates.
Currently, live streams are the sole source of eSports events such as tournaments. While these events may not be broadcast on television, they are still able to reach a wide audience over the internet. ESports may not have a place on television at present, but eSports most certainly has a place on the internet.
BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co.