eSports for Cultivating Young Fans?

Attendance at horse-racing tracks long ago gave way to remote wagering.  Now college football and basketball are beginning to experience worrisome drops in the number of people showing up at games, also to some degree due to technology.

It is not a coincidence that as real sports are having more difficulty attracting people to events, eSports have grown (wildly) in popularity.  Keenly aware of the eSports trend, the NBA now has an eSports league.

CNN wrote: “eSports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming.  Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are popular with at-home gamers: Fortnight, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL, to name a few. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans all over the world, who attend live events or tune in on TV or online. Streaming services like Twitch allow viewers to watch as their favorite gamers play in real time, and this is typically where popular gamers build up their fandoms.”

Goldman Sachs provides stunning data about eSports.  The audiences for various professional sports leagues in North America vs. eSports are: NFL, 270 million; MLB, 114m; NBA, 231m; and eSports, 167m.  Goldman Sachs estimates that the eSports audience will be 276 million in 2022.  Moreover, 79% of eSports viewers are under 35 years old and some colleges are offering scholarships to eSports players just as they do to real-sport players.

According to Goldman Sachs, in 2017, viewership for championship events was: The Super Bowl, 124 million; League of Legends (eSports), 58m; The World Series, 38m; the NBA Finals, 32m; and the Stanley Cup Finals, 11m.

eSports revenue (per Goldman Sachs) derive from: sponsorship, 38%; advertising, 22%; media rights, 14%; tickets, 9%; and other, 17%. 

If horse racing is to have a strong future, it must connect with the generation that is increasingly embracing eSports.  It is beyond the scope of this post to elaborate, other than to say that whether horse racing lends itself to the eSports model should be explored; the idea would be to interest younger people in horse racing via eSports and this would lead some of them into becoming fans of real horse racing.

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