This past weekend the Rocket League Championship Series’s (RLCS) European Championship was broadcast over Twitch, a video streaming platform for community gamers with a growing user base of over 45,000. On Sunday alone, 78,723 people watched not only the game itself, virtual soccer played with cars, but also Rocket League commentators, advertisements and post-game shows that are similar to the staple of traditional TV sports coverage.
Many news outlets like ESPN and NBC are starting to invest in esports coverage and their own esports competitions. In 2017, the esports industry will grow to $696 million, according to Newzoo’s most recent Global Esports Market Report. The report also said Brands will spend $155 million on advertising, $266 million on sponsorship and a further $95 million on media rights.
This massively growing industry is dependent on the growing popularity of streaming services as well. Thirty-six percent of US internet users stream online video every day, according to Statista. Twitch is one of the main video streaming services for competitive esports and will host Overwatch, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm and Starcraft II tournaments through 2018.
As of 2015, Rocket League has been viewed over 30 million times on Twitch, with 112,270 followers in October 2017, according to the official Twitch channel metrics. Twitch has 321 live channels of Rocket League, broadcast in five languages such as Spanish, French, and Dutch.
Chad Millman, editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, said in an interview with Fortune that the esports audience is hard to ignore.
“We saw how responsive the fan base was, how tremendous the storytelling opportunities were and, for those of us not already immersed in the industry, how similar it was from a competitive standpoint to what we already cover,” Millman said.
Jason “General” Wilhelm, the managing director of SoaR Gaming, said in an interview with Forbes that the esports industry is better off if big media players like ESPN follow the esports trend.
“Esports is very different from other entertainment industries, and I think it needs to be approached with a different mindset,” Wilhelm said. “The biggest thing that I see changing in the future is the number of big companies and people getting involved in the scene. This will only increase the value of the industry as a whole.”
While the longevity of individual games may not sustain, esports in general is carving out an increasingly popular niche based on traditional sports models. More large media outlets will follow Twitch and other streaming services in creating, broadcasting and monetizing online competitive gaming. The esports audience has given birth to a large industry that will continue to have greater influence, competing with traditional sports news outlets.