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How TV networks can benefit from eSports' NFL-like viewership numbers

The gaming industry is doing better than ever before: Electronic Arts’ stock was up nearly 50 per cent in 2015 while Activision Blizzard’s was up 96 per cent.

Demand is extremely strong on major platforms like PlayStation and Xbox and mobile game development are better designed and more engaging than ever. But what will really drive the industry in the coming years is eSports – an industry that SuperData forecasts will generate $1.8 billion in revenue by 2018 (Activision last week acquired eSports giant Major League Gaming).

What will drive these revenues is growing viewership numbers, and as described in an ESPN the Magazine article last June, this shouldn't be an issue: “Today, eSports' biggest tournaments rival practically any sporting event. The League of Legends Championship sold out Staples Center in 2013, then sold out the 40,000-seat World Cup Stadium in Seoul a year later while drawing an online audience of 27 million -- more than the TV viewership for the final round of the Masters.”

With viewership numbers already so high, and continuing to grow, there is a tremendous opportunity for TV networks (and, of course, brands and advertisers) to capitalize.

One company leading the eSports charge is Skillz, which focuses on the niche of mobile eSports. Skillz has hosted more than 40 million mobile tournaments and its platform allows developers to integrate these tournaments easily into any mobile game.

For more on eSports, its viewer base, and how TV networks and over the top services can benefit from its growth, we spoke with Andrew Paradise, CEO and Founder, Skillz:

Found Remote: How will eSports continue to benefit from over the top services like Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV?

Andrew Paradise: In 2016, eSports growth will be explosive, including major consumer adoption using services like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and even the Apple Watch. Through expanding compatibility and optimizing the user experience for each unique service, the industry will have the opportunity to interact with existing users on each platform and convert them into eSports fans.

FR: How can TV networks capitalize on the growing popularity of eSports?

Paradise: In the coming year, I predict that the largest eSports event will be second only to the Super Bowl in terms of total viewers. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of TV networks to start laying the groundwork now so they’ll be in the position to broadcast major 2016 eSports events and capitalize on the growing viewership numbers.

FR: What will it take to convert traditional sports fans and viewers into eSports ones?

Paradise: Honestly, it shouldn’t take much if the eSports industry continues to lower the barrier for entry. The increase in the eSports fan base will be aided in part by the growth of mobile and the accessibility it provides to people around the world. As the popularity and awareness surrounding eSports continue to rise, I know that traditional sports fans and viewers will grow to enjoy and root for their favorite eSports as well.

FR: Skillz is focused on mobile eSports. How can this translate to larger screens and events?

Paradise: Right now we are dedicated to optimizing mobile to effectively bring eSports to the masses, but in the long run that’s not our only plan. Eventually we see Skillz powering tournaments in massive stadiums and other venues, as part of our overall mission of making eSports for everyone. We are building the future of eSports, which will definitely include large screens and events.

FR: What are some interesting ways you've seen brands and advertisers reach eSports viewers?

Paradise: I’ve been impressed with the consumer engagement generated by brands advertising on Twitch and YouTube. Both platforms have become popular among eSports fans for viewing live matches and replays, so it’s been interesting to see advertising focused specifically on those fans by utilizing the mediums most familiar to them.