By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism.com
January 11, 2016: "On a global scale, the number of eSports enthusiasts compares well to mid-tier traditional sports," consulting and marketing firm NewZoo, San Francisco. wrote in a study of the category in 2015.
According to NewZoo, the number of eSports enthusiasts worldwide has grown from 89.7 million last year to 116 million in 2015, By 2017, "the global number of eSports fans will come close to that of American football."
Domestically, the eSports audience is currently 32 million people with anticipated growth to more than 50 million by 2017, with more than half of adult eSports viewers younger than 35 years old, according to Turner Broadcasting and WME | IMG, which in 2015 formed an alliance to create an eSports competitive gaming league.
Global eSports viewership in 2015 was more than 226 million people, with the total expected to climb to 323 million by 2018, per NewZoo.
Among the non-endemic brands aligned with eSports are Coca-Cola, Intel, Nissan, Microsoft and T-Mobile.
Coca-Cola in 2015 signed a deal with Internet media company IGN to become title sponsor for eSports Weekly with Coca-Cola.
According to Matt Wolf, head of gaming for Coca-Cola, "Over the last few years, we have made it our mission to elevate and celebrate eSports and gaming at large. Coca-Cola’s partnership with IGN will bring an unprecedented level of exposure, recognition and uplift to the industry and community. Coca-Cola and IGN have come together to ignite the passion of eSports’ fans every week by creating and delivering content that has never been done before.”
Calling it a "groundbreaking opportunity," video game veteran Electronic Arts in 2015 unveiled a strategy to build its first eSports platform.
"The Competitive Gaming Division is "the latest step in our journey to put our players first (and) will enable global eSports competitions in our biggest franchises including FIFA, Madden NFL and Battlefield," Andrew Wilson, EA's CEO, wrote on the company's blog site.
The EA CGD will operate under Peter Moore, who becomes evp and chief competition officer.
Leading videogame company Activision Blizzard, which has become a global front-runner in the burgeoning eSports category via Call of Duty, StarCraft, World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm and other platforms, also formed an eSports division, under the auspices of former CEO for ESPN and the NFL Network Steve Bornstein and Mike Sepso, previously co-founder and president for Major League Gaming.
Just before midnight Jan. 1, 2016, Activision Blizzard acquired the assets of Major League Gaming for $46 million.
According to Activision Blizzard, the new division would "build on the company’s competitive gaming leadership by creating all-new ways to deliver the best-in-class fan experience across games, platforms and geographies, furthering the development of its eSports ecosystem."
Through their venture, Turner and WME | IMG said they would beginning this year "deliver competitive gaming events for all platforms including premium live fan experiences, televised coverage airing exclusively on TBS and extensive, high quality live digital event coverage and content extensions."
Skillz, a global leader in mobile eSports, said it has raised $15 million in Series B funding, led by Wildcat Capital Management, with The Kraft Group, owners of the NFL's New England Patriots and Marc Lasry, co-owner of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, participating in the round.
In December, Evolve Labs, developers of the Evolve social collaboration platform for PC gamers (with nearly two million members), rolled out an eSports arena, BlackFlag, which enables five-person League of Legends teams to compete against each other for cash prizes.
According to Evolve, "There are currently over 250,000 League of Legends players already on Evolve, playing 750,000 League of Legends matches each month, so this new competitive format is a natural fit for the company."
A League of Legends world championship throughout October offered a top prize of $1 million. According to game developer and world championship developer Riot Games, more than 11 million viewers watched the championship "in 19 languages via 40 broadcast partners."
“eSports is one of the fastest growing entertainment genres among young adults around the world,” Lenny Daniels, president for Turner Sports, said regarding the formation of the Turner-WME | IMG alliance.
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