PlayStation Vue users in the US will soon have access to 24/7 esports content thanks to a partnership between Sony and ESL. Just in time for the 12th season of the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tour beginning May 4, esportsTV will host linear programming as part of PlayStation Vue’s Elite viewing plan.
EsportsTV will be the first linear US channel dedicated solely to esports content. While PlayStation Vue is available for PlayStation 4, it’s not limited to a gaming audience. The service is also available for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, PC/Mac, mobile devices and more, which begs the question—just how big is the market for a subscription esports channel?
“We’re going after the PlayStation user who is today not watching TV, driving a large ratings decline and is at high risk [for abandoning the pay-TV ecosystem],” Sony Computer Entertainment Group CEO Andrew House told The Wall Street Journal when PlayStation Vue was announced in 2015.
House was referring to the growing number of “cord-cutters” in the US who are abandoning traditional cable TV in favor of on-demand subscription services like Hulu and Netflix. Video game enthusiasts are obviously the most likely to subscribe to an “all esports all the time” channel—a massive demographic that is less likely to engage with mainstream platforms like cable TV, according to recent findings by analyst firm, SuperData. Twenty-seven percent of video game livestream viewers watch most often during weekday evenings, often replacing primetime TV. In addition, 20 percent of US Gaming Video Content (GVC) streamers are “cord-cutters,” SuperData found, compared to eight percent of the general US population.
The audience is definitely there, but will they pay to watch?
“Overall, PlayStation has been doing a great job at further solidifying its leadership position in the console space,” SuperData CEO, Joost van Dreunen told AListDaily. “Traditionally, however, offering linear programming and VOD content has been only a minor growth driver. The partnership with ESL does have potential on the long run, but since access requires at a minimum a $55/month subscription to the Elite package it is unlikely to move the needle in the short term.”
Between YouTube’s 517 million users and Twitch’s 185 million, the GVC audience surpasses mainstream channels like ESPN and HBO and—according to the 2016 Adobe Digital Insights Gaming Report—esports has a larger social following than the NFL, NHL and MLB (individually). ESL, in particular, has already amassed over 320 million hours of content broadcast on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, esportsTV outside the US, ESL TV and Movistar eSports via Telefonica.
Time will tell whether esportsTV will revolutionize the way competitive gaming is consumed, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.