If you’re over 40, the whole concept of eSports probably sounds like a joke. People paying good money to watch other people play video games? Seriously? Yes. Seriously. In 2018 there were 215 million occasional viewers and 165 million self-described enthusiasts. And with annual growth of about 15%, we can expect an audience of over half a billion people by 2021. The 2018 “League of Legends” finals drew nearly 100 million unique viewers, on par with that year’s Super Bowl.

We had a chat with a Catherine Carpenter, a CoxNext digital strategist, to discuss this enormous new market.

I have to admit, I was imaging young guys in their parents’ basement, but this is obviously way bigger than that. What’s the audience like?

CC: Right? That is what I thought too! But it is actually all over the place. The audience does skew male, but there’s a pretty wide range of age, race, etc. And there’s a growing number of families watching together, which makes sense. I mean, Halo first came out in the early 2000s, so if you think of it that way, there are guys who have been playing these types of games for 20 years. Now they’re playing with their kids, and their passion for the sport is no different than people who love the NBA, MLB, and NFL.  People are very dedicated to the sport and that gives advertisers a chance to go after an untapped audience.

Tell me a bit about platforms

CC: Twitch and YouTube are the main players when it comes to streaming tournaments and live play. There’s also Discord, which started as a chat app for gamers, but is evolving into a platform for players to engage with fans and amplify social media. eSports definitely has its own stars and influencers.

What sorts of campaigns are we talking about here? Obviously, YouTube’s one of the major platforms, so I assume there’s similar delivery for eSports as with other YouTube content.

CC: That’s right. With YouTube and Twitch, we can deliver ads to people who are watching livestreams. On YouTube, you also have a lot of related content – people researching Easter eggs, looking for tips for beating a level, stuff like that. Cox Enterprises is actually a partner in a venture that owns two eSports teams in Atlanta, so I’ve had a chance to look behind the scenes a little. Clients who are really interested in this market can consider more direct participation, things like team sponsorships or working with social media influencers.