Feb 26 2014 - 6:25 pm

How esports viewership measures up to mainstream TV

Last year, Los Angeles’s Staples Center sold out for the League of Legends world championships in an hour
Patrick Howell O'Neill
Dot Esports

Last year, Los Angeles’s Staples Center sold out for the League of Legends world championships in an hour. Thousands of hardcore gaming fans filled the arena to watch the best players in the world compete for a $1 million prize.

But online, the audience was even bigger: 32 million watched via various streaming platforms, making it the biggest esports event of all time. League of Legends was no secret before, but those numbers made it impossible to ignore. Esports is a booming industry with dedicated fans, almost all of whom watch streams online for hours at a time.

But as esports explodes on websites like Twitch and YouTube, how do they measure up against television?

We took a look at esports and television ratings over the years to gain insight into just how popular games like League of Legends and StarCraft 2 are when compared to the real heavyweights in television.

And the verdict is interesting. While esports can’t compete with the absolute top tier of broadcast events like the Super Bowl or World Cup, the viewership is easily large enough that just about any TV network would be happy to broadcast them. Today’s esports scene makes even South Korea’s legendary Brood War industry of the last decade look, well, average.

For organizational purposes, we've created some somewhat arbitrary distinctions between broadcasts—what we're call low, middle, and upper tier. It's also a way to sort out the outrageously popular broadcasts from more mundane fare. Take a look.

Low Tier

In 2005, at the height of StarCraft’s popularity in South Korea, Ongamenet was one of two television channels in the world broadcasting esports. The network, which featured StarCraft: Brood War’s richest and most prestigious competition, averaged 1.5 million viewers on South Korean television.  

Those numbers are roughly comparable to the Evolution Champion Series, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, which reached 1.7 million viewers in 2013. Moving up a little, DreamHack Winter 2013, one of the biggest esports event in Europe, drew 2.8 million viewers total.

Dreamhack 2012. Photo by Andrew Bell/Flickr

For comparison, Bill O’Reilly, the highest rated cable news host in the United States, earns 2.6 million viewers on an average show. That's not exactly a fair comparison, though, because both DreamHack and EVO are special events. But one of O’Reilly's more exclusive broadcasts recently, an interview with President Obama, had 4.2 million viewers. Those were his highest ratings in years.

Now, we'll readily admit that O’Reilly isn’t directly competing with esports, nor directly comparable.

But traditional sports aren't a perfect comparison either: esports are simply esports. And it’s interesting to see how a big-name TV personality might compare to esports. But if you'd like a more directly applicable comparison, take baseball: Last year’s MLB American League Championship Series game 2 between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers drew 8.26 million viewers.

Update: It's important to note here that, for many of the sporting events, these numbers represent average concurrent viewership, as in the number of people watching at any given time. It's not necessarily the total number watching. Traditional TV ratings, on the other hand, take a representative sample of viewers to calculate total viewership.

Middle tier

From 5 million viewers to 30 million, we’ve entered the middle tier. Just about any broadcast that brings in that many viewers is an unqualified success. There are only a few television shows that hit this range—weekly broadcasts of CBS's top shows, NCIS and NCIS: LA, for instance, bring in averages of 23.3 and 18.2 million. But from here on up, we have only two esports events left that can make a mark on our list.

The first? The 2012 League of Legends World Championships, which drew 8.2 million viewers. That's more than the first round of the 2013 MLB Playoffs which averaged 3.9 million viewers on TBS. For context, Game 7 of the 2013 NBA finals, in which the Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs, averaged nearly 17.7 million viewers.

But here's a more fun comparison. AMC’s Breaking Bad was arguably the hottest show of the past six years on television. And its series finale barely reached more viewers than the 2012 LCS championships: 10.3 million. And that was the third highest rating of all time for a TV cable series finale. The all-time cable series finale record belongs to 2007’s end to The Sopranos which reached 11.9 million.

High tier

Big esports can compete pretty well with your average TV broadcast. But they still pale in comparison to the real big leagues of broadcast television.

The biggest esports event ever, the League of Legends 2013 World Championships, topped off at 32 million viewers, a stunning 400 percent increase over the previous year. Compare that to the 2012 NFL Wildcard playoff matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants which reached 27.7 million viewers. And this year’s playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins hit an audience of 38 million.


The LCS Championship. Photo by artubr/Flickr

Then there's the Super Bowl, currently the most watched television show in American history. This year's NFL final, wherein the Seattle Seahawks demolished Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, reached 111.5 million viewers in the United States. Nine out of the top 10 rated American broadcasts this year were NFL games. The only outlier was the 2013 Academy Awards, with over 40 million.

The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics lured over 1 billion people to their television sets, 842 million of whom were Chinese. That matches the 2011 Cricket World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan.

The 2010 Soccer World Cup reached 3.2 billion people, almost half the world’s population. It's the highest rated television event of all time.

Of course, no one would expect any esports title to compete with a sporting events of that magnitude. But what's really interesting about all this is that the League of Legends 2013 World Championships can stand toe to toe with some of the most successful broadcasts of our time.

Even “regular” esports events like DreamHack are drawing millions of viewers from around the world, numbers that many networks would love to have.

It will be a long time before an esports event can challenge any of the top-tier broadcasts on this list. But esports and the gaming audience at large is huge, and growing bigger every year. The question is, with all the success the industry has experienced on websites like Twitch, what would it take to lure esports to television? With numbers like we've outlined here, don't be surprised if that transition happens very soon.

Photo via Jiří Zralý/Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Jan 16 2017 - 8:53 pm

2017 NA LCS Preseason Rankings

The LCS is back this weekend! We ranked each NA team heading into week one.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Photo via Riot Games

Season 6 in the North American League Championships Series was something special. Play reached a new level as two teams basically ran the table in both spring and summer. And for the first time, a North American team made the final at a major Riot-sponsored international tournament.

After a hectic offseason, we are almost ready to dive back into LCS play. Before we start, Dot Esports took a look at the NA LCS landscape and ranked the teams for the Spring Split. Ranking teams at the start of the year is extremely difficult because of roster changes and a new meta, but that won’t stop us from trying.

With a couple strong teams choosing to keep their rosters together and a few potential contenders adding exciting foreign stars, Season 7 could be the best yet.

1) TSM

We start where Season 6 ended: with TSM on top. For most of last summer, nobody could touch them as they out-laned, out-jungled, and out-macro’d everyone. Nobody could match Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg in the mid lane, which unlocked the whole map for Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen to roam.

The big question for this team is who replaces Doublelift as a late game shot caller. We think it should be Vincent “Biofrost” Wang. Having an experienced lane partner in Jason “WildTurtle” Tran will also help him navigate the duo lane. But he will have to do better controlling vision and winning contested objectives. They’ll need stronger initiations that layer the abilities of all five members.

Deliver on that and TSM fans may be able to forget all of their 2016 disappointments.

Best case: Semifinals at Worlds

Worst Case: Semifinals in the NA LCS playoffs

2) Cloud9

After making it to the bracket stage at Worlds, there’s reason to believe that Cloud9 will be even stronger this year. Remember, the team initially struggled to integrate Jung “Impact“ Eon-yeong at the beginning of the Summer Split. Those memories were put to rest by Impact’s flashy “top die” plays at Worlds.

The real question is whether new jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia can give the team better initiations and map control. William “Meteos” Hartman played a valuable role but didn’t have the mechanics to dictate games. Shot calling will be crucial now that Contractz doesn’t have Hai Lam, shot caller extraordinaire, next to him. Someone on this team will have to become its voice. We’re not sure who.

Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu has a lot of work to do to make sure his team executes on their strategy and communicates effectively. He made great progress with the team last Summer, but can it continue?

Best Case: Contractz is the solution and they make someone nervous in the bracket stage at Worlds

Worst Case: Meteos is brought back in and they have to scrap their way into the LCS playoffs

3) Team Dignitas

There’s a lot of risk putting Dignitas this high. But the team has put a lot of thought into how to build this roster. It’s clear that they want to play around the solo lanes, where Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho and Jang "Keane" Lae-Young will benefit from Lee “Chaser” Sang-hyun’s pressure. Meanwhile, Benjamin “LOD” deMunck was quietly one of the better AD carries last summer.

How this team communicates with two new Korean players will dictate their place in the standings. The jungle especially requires special synergy with the team. Dignitas has said all the right things about playing together and identifying communication as a major early issue. Knowing those things is one thing; executing is another.

Ssumday and Chaser have a shot at being the best top/jungle duo in NA. But the team could take more than one split to jell.

Best Case: They make the LCS finals in their first year together and compete for a Worlds spot

Worst Case: Communication is an issue all year, they can only win hour-long slog fests, and they fall to the relegation zone

4) CLG

We’re now getting to teams with major question marks on the roster. For Counter Logic Gaming, it’s mid laner Choi “HuHi” Jae-hyun. We wrote about HuHi in our “Players to Watch” piece. Mid lane’s priority could increase in a jungle-focused meta. And the rest of the team is ill-suited to make up for HuHi’s shortcomings.

It’s been a while since Darshan Upadhyaha has served as a consistent carry. Trevor “Stixxay” Hayes is probably their most consistent damage dealer, but playing around the AD carry is risky with regards to meta changes. Coach Tony “Zikz” Gray’s team is always well prepared and has some of the best early-level strategies in the game. But they desperately need some mid-lane pressure to start exploring next-level strategies.

Best Case: HuHi figures it out, they play multiple winning lanes, and split people to death

Worst Case: HuHi is the same, the competition has leveled up, and they miss the playoffs

5) Team Liquid

There is a risk that we’re ranking Liquid too low. Stars like Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin can be terrifying. New coach Matt Lim is highly regarded for his work on Team Liquid Academy last year. They should have better communication with Reignover calling the shots. What’s not to love?

Like CLG, it goes back to the mid lane. It’s not clear who will start, but it will either be a Challenger player who’s never put it all together on the LCS stage (Grayson “Goldenglue” Gillmer) or someone who hasn’t even seen the stage in years (Austin “LiNK” Shin).

This is a roster that has the talent to win it all if a few breaks go their way.

Best Case: Things click between Reignover and Piglet and they break the fourth-place curse on the way to Worlds

Worst Case: They never find a solution to the mid lane and we get version two of the Donezo Manifesto (or Break Point, part two)

6) Immortals

We’re now getting to teams where the win condition is not immediately obvious. For Immortals, it starts with the jungler they basically traded Reignover for: Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett. He can be a win condition in himself.

But there are more question marks than certainties. Top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong hasn’t really been at Flame Horizon level (+100 CS over his lane opponent) for some time. The bot lane is a mystery. Finally, there’s the potential that Dardoch self-destructs.

Best case: Flame and Dardoch click, Cody Sun stays alive, and they compete for a playoff spot. Dardoch keeps an even keel and their steady improvement gives fans something to hope for

Worst case: Dardoch blows up, everyone blows up

7) Phoenix1

This was one of the hardest rosters to rank.

P1 was ascending in the latter half of the Summer Split. Then they signed Ryu Sang-wook and No “Arrow” Dong-hyeon. Unlike other teams adding Koreans, P1 should have a better time integrating these two. Ryu has played in Europe since 2014. And AD carry is an easy position to integrate communication-wise, as long as there’s good synergy with the support.

Whether Arrow and Adrian can develop synergy is the primary question. Adrian was able to do some great things for the carries on Immortals in 2016. But his champion pool was also called into question and his duo lane was not usually a strength.

Best Case: Inori and Ryu stand out with flashy plays, Arrow is the second best ADC behind Piglet, and the team makes it to the LCS semifinals

Worst Case: Arrow and Adrian never jell, they get beat in the macro and late game, and head to the promotion tournament

8) Echo Fox

Echo Fox has two star solo laners: Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok and Henrik “Froggen” Hansen. Beyond them, the roster is a complete mystery. Not that players like Yuri "Keith" Jew are unknown—we just don’t know what their true talent level is. It’s not clear how many players on this team are really LCS-level.

Then there’s the question of shot calling. It’s anyone’s guess how this team coordinates. You can’t turn every game into a farm fest (though Froggen would surely prefer that). At some point, someone needs to go in with Looper and start fights.

Best Case: The make a surprising run at the playoffs behind unstoppable play from Looper and Froggen. Who needs a jungler?

Worst Case: Froggen sets another CS record, but Echo Fox can’t survive the promotion tournament

9) Team EnVyUs

This team started out strong in their first LCS split last summer. Behind stellar play from top laner Shin "Seraph" Wu-Yeong, they went 5-1 in series before other teams started figuring them out.

The team will need to regain their footing in 2017 and play more patiently around Seraph. New jungler Nam “lira” Tae-yoo may help, but his addition results in a strange situation with three Koreans in the solo lanes and jungle and two native English speakers in the duo lane. Can they figure out how they want to play and stick with it?

Best Case: They don’t get relegated. The duo lane follows the Koreans around and Seraph and Ninja put their carry pants on

Worst Case: None of that happens, they make too many mistakes, and there’s not enough talent on the roster for Seraph to carry

10) Fly Quest

It may seem obvious to stick the new team at the bottom. But this decision was not made easily. The reason? Hai.

We don’t know how teams like P1, Echo Fox, or even Dignitas will communicate. Not so for Fly Quest, who should continue relying on Hai’s impeccable shot calling. There’s a lot of value to a team being on the same page and knowing what to do as a unit. Just ask TSM about their experience with that last spring.

The problem is, it’s unclear what Hai is working with. Stomping on Challenger squads is completely different to facing LCS competition each week in best-of-three settings. Teams are going to identify Fly Quest’s weaknesses quickly and pounce repeatedly. It’s just hard to find winning matchups anywhere on this roster.

Best Case: Hai’s shot calling allows the team to grind out late-game victories off of superior macro play. They go .500 in the regular season and get a game in the playoffs

Worst Case: It becomes apparent that they just don’t have LCS-level stuff anymore. They go back to the Challenger Series where they romp

All photos via Riot Games

Jan 15 2017 - 10:31 pm

Kinguin and Fnatic Academy secure spots in European Challenger Series

The two teams made short work of the opposition.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Photo via Riot Games

Fnatic Academy and Team Kinguin qualified for the European League of Legends Challenger Series, taking themselves one step closer to the game's premier competition.

In rather emphatic fashion, the two teams completely decimated their opposition. Both teams were able to secure quick 3-0 victories, and will now be competing in the upcoming season of the EU CS league.

While both teams fell short of first place in the qualifiers group stage, the teams made up for it in spades in the tournament finals. The Polish Kinguin roster were the first team to qualify for the league, as the team completely decimated opponents on Nerv.

Despite featuring former EU CS players such as mid laner An "SuNo" Sun-ho, as well as support Christophe "je suis kaas" van Oudheusden, it seemed as if Nerv weren't able to find any opening against the Polish team.

The final series of the day saw Fnatic Academy, in equally as dominant fashion, defeat Team Forge.

The academy team's display in the three games was incredible impressive, in particular the performances of mid laner Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer and former FC Schalke AD carry Rasmus "MrRalleZ" Skinneholm, as both players only died once throughout the entire series.

With the qualifiers over, Kinguin and Fnatic Academy now join FC Schalke, Paris Saint-Germain, Millenium and Misfits Academy in the 2017 Spring Season of the EU CS.

The 2017 League of Legends season gets underway next week, when all regional leagues begin their spring seasons.