Esports Viewer Numbers in China Now Four Times US Figures
China is currently the third largest esports market globally but that could be set to change as the country adapts its stance on professional gaming and esports audience figures grow.
New research from Ampere Analysis has discovered that 26% of China’s internet users are watching esports at least once per month. Compared to the findings for the US, at just 6%. In Europe, Denmark leads esports viewership figures with 9% of internet users watching esports each month. Despite the US being the largest esports market, viewership figures for the UK, France and Sweden marginally exceed US viewer statistics. Ampere analyst Hazel Ford says:
“The rise of esports viewing on a global scale presents a potentially lucrative opportunity for new and existing players.”
Ampere Analysis, as reported by TV Technology, says the driver for esports audience figures is high profile tournaments. It points to the 2019 Fortnite World Cup with 20 million Twitch viewers and the FIFA 2019 eWorld Cup with a total of 50 million global viewers.
In China, says Ampere, the most watched tournament has been the 2018 League of Legends World Championship which it reports had an audience in China of 203 million compared to a rest of the world audience at 2 million.
Demographics are changing but Twitch is still the most popular esports streaming platform
The report also indicates that viewer demographics could be changing. Though esports fans are usually males aged 18-34, females now make up 35% of viewers. And, 40% of viewers are now over 35 and 33% have small children. In China, it found, 43% of viewers are female.
Twitch is still the most popular medium for watching esports in North America and Europe with 65% of monthly viewers heading to the platform for their esports fix. Unsurprisingly with its esports focus, channel variety, and streaming rights for events. YouTube receives under 40% of esports viewers. Ford adds:
“Platforms such as Twitch and YouTube are currently market leaders but face growing competition from a number of newcomers, including the developers themselves. As with the traditional sports world, exclusive rights deals will become crucial for platforms looking to control high growth esports audiences.”
China’s investment into esports is growing as its teams excel
This summer, China reversed what seemed to be a more sceptical approach to gaming and accelerated esports plans with investment into esports districts and esports stadiums. As well as by creating programs that will provide over $1 million in subsidies to international esports tournaments planned for China.
There are also new projects to fund gaming clubs in China. More recently CNN Business reported on the development of China’s “esports athletes,” with budding professionals training on their games for 14 hours a day. China’s state media nows put the value of its esports industry at the equivalent of $14 billion.
Of course, China already has a significant presence in esports with highly respected pro-gaming teams like LGD Gaming. With China’s Invictus Gaming winning the League of Legends World Championship in 2018 it’s no shock that the audience in China for the tournament grew so high.
RNG’s Beijing manager Bi Lianli told CNN Business in December that she believes China will become a world leader in esports adding that:
“Last year, China were the champions in the world competition of League of Legends. Last May, our team won the championship in the preseason. It’s an undeniable fact that China now plays a leading role in the world of esports.”
Newzoo puts the number of global esports fans at nearly 200 million with around 75 million from China – the largest concentration of fans.
With esports revenue growth driven by audience inspired brand investment, China’s significant esports viewership could well propel esports and as a major industry in the country and see China taking a long-term global leadership role in the sport.