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Esports Embraces Moment Without Traditional Sports on TV

COVID-19 has brought confusion and uncertainty to many industries — and even halted ad spend as companies adjust to evolving concerns and restrictions. One industry that has been able to sustain itself despite that, however, is esports. 

In quarantine, esports has found exploding popularity on social video (according to Tubular Labs), and according to Verizon, game traffic over its networks has surged 75% from week-to-week. Esports has also grown on television, where it’s filled a void for fans looking to address their competitive fix without traditional sports on air.

“When the NBA, MLB, and other professional sports were canceled earlier this year, it presented a big opportunity for esports to show it can attract mainstream audiences,” said Seven Volpone, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Subnation. “And with crossover integrations like the NBA 2K Players Tournament and the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational bringing in solid viewership for networks, esports also proved it can provide desirable programming for both endemic and non-endemic brands to advertise against.

“This is creating the perfect environment to usher in the next generation of sports fans and forward-thinking brands to the TV and branded content space. To capitalize on the shifts of consumer behaviors in content viewing and purchasing, esports and gaming will be a major focus for brands long after traditional sports are back up and running, said Volpone.”

iSpot, the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company, released a report this week diving into esports on TV, including the top programs, brand advertisers and creative (among other notes). They found that eNASCAR had the most impressions by a wide margin, but also aired nearly twice as many ads as the nearest competitor.

Fox Sports 1 and ESPN2 had the most ad impressions by far for gaming shows, with FS1 getting the edge slightly, 217 million to 204 million. iRacing, which sponsored the eNASCAR event, had the most impressions of all brands that advertised during esports programming from March through May.

*iSpot measured from March through May*