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In a bid to make its ratings data directly comparable to traditional sports, the Overwatch League (OWL) today is releasing Nielsen viewership figures in average-minute-audience (AMA) form for the first time. The Activision Blizzard Esports-owned OWL started working with Nielsen in April of last year so it could start to get AMA data, in order to share that with prospects, sponsors, and agencies, and this marks the first time Nielsen has released such year-over-year figures for an esports property. The data, which compares digital streams last year versus digital streams plus linear broadcasts this year, shows that the OWL averaged 313K viewers globally and 95K in the U.S. during the recently concluded regular season, up 18% and 34% annually.
The OWL also cited the data as showing that the league averaged 55K viewers in the U.S. in the 18-34 demo, which Nielsen says makes the OWL the fastest growing league in that demo in the country. The median age of OWL is 24, which Nielsen data shows is far younger than the other leagues compared (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, the PGA Tour, and college football and basketball), and cites the broad range of 16-40 years younger, according to OWL.
Activision Blizzard Esports Lead of Strategy & Analytics Kasra Jafroodi told THE DAILY yesterday this marks an important step for esports as the industry starts to look more toward the long-term implications of needing to be more transparent and fair with the metrics it reports in order to have the trust of prospective and current partners plus the general public.
Jafroodi said that while the Nielsen numbers may have less eye-popping numbers than some statistics that have been used in esports in the past, being more transparent and in league with other sports’ data will pay off in the long term because partners will understand the figures better and not question them. He also noted that the data underscores the OWL’s markedly young fanbase, citing Nielsen as saying that OWL is the only property it scores that is up in the 18-34 demo this year.
Jafroodi said, “When you look at esports, there are a lot of metrics historically that are hard to understand and hard to compare with anything else, like views, peak concurrents or hours watched. Because everyone is trying to find the largest number to make the best story, that creates a couple [of] problems: it’s hard to compare so people make incorrect comparisons, which while it sounds good as a headline, it will hurt the industry in the long term.”
The OWL has been sharing this data with its partners and using it to pitch sponsors all season, but it is just sharing it with the public for the first time.
OWL Head of Global Partnerships Josh Cella noted that having direct comparisons to other sports has been a major goal of his, “because we believed we would see an immediate impact with younger demographics and our partners needed to feel confident in that data.”
Official sponsors of the OWL include Kellogg’s, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Bud Light, State Farm, and T-Mobile. Jafroodi is part of an esports council that Nielsen works with across multiple game publishers, and Nielsen has been growing its presence in the space in recent years, also signing a deal with Riot Games this year to measure League of Legends esports’ viewership.
Adam Stern is a staff writer for Sports Business Journal, where this story first appeared.
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