More than 8.8 million unique viewers live streamed Week 4 of Friday Fortnite, an invite-only tournament for prize money hosted by well-known streamers (see: Ninja, Keemstar) and sponsored by UMG; making it the most watched gaming competition to date. To put that figure in perspective, 5.3 million people tuned into coverage of the 1st Round of 2018 NFL Draft, the 2017 MLB LCS averaged 6.3 million viewers, 7.9 million people watched the season finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and the 2nd most watched NBA Conference Finals in 16 years drew just over 9 million fans. Moving forward, it’s expected that esports/gaming competition will continue to regularly outdraw traditional television programming; Statista projects the number of gaming viewers worldwide to reach 743 million people by 2019, up +22% from 609 million in 2016.
Howie Long-Short: Back in March, we wrote about Fortnite experiencing a “cultural moment”; Drake (rapper), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers WR), Travis Scott (rapper) and Ninja (a pro gamer) set the all-time, non-tournament, record for concurrent viewers on a single individual’s Twitch channel (628,000, previous record 388,000) as they streamed themselves playing the game between 1-5a EST.
Both the live streaming video platform and the popular online survival game (45 million players) have only grown in popularity since that early morning in mid-March. Twitch now boasts of 3.2 million broadcasters (+60% since ‘17), with 49% of all broadcasts (less than 1% existed in Sept. ’17) on the platform built around “Fortnite” content. That’s a noteworthy stat, as no other game has controlled more than 40% of Twitch channels dating back to 2016. Of course, it’s not just Twitch benefiting from the Fortnite craze; the game now also “holds the record for the most video game-related uploads in a single month on YouTube.”
Fortnite was developed by Epic Games, a privately-held company that Tencent (TCEHY) maintains a 40% stake in. TCEHY reported in May that Q1 ’18 net profit rose 61% YoY (to $3.6 billion) on $11.5 billion in revenue (+48% YoY), with mobile (revenue +68% YoY) gaming and video streaming (revenue +75%) driving the growth. PC gaming revenues were flat, but that’s mostly indicative of impressive Q1 ’17 figures and the fact the company has yet to monetize “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” or Fortnite in China. Tencent plans to launch the games in the country in the coming months (see: upside). It’s worth pointing out that TCEHY is Asia’s 2nd most valuable publicly traded entity. As for Ninja, he’s making at least $500,000/mo. from subscription fees, game sales, brand deals and donations on Twitch.
Fan Marino: Epic Games has invested $100 million to fund Fortnite tournament prize pools, with the competition set to debut later this year; so, interest surrounding the last-man-standing, “battle royale” game is only going to increase. At $100 million, the prize pool is more than 4x greater than the 2nd largest sum ever offered in a competitive gaming prize pool, which was $23 million for DotA 2’s 2017 esports tournament. Of course, $100 million is just 1/3 of a single month’s revenue for Fortnite – the game generated $296 million in April, up a staggering 134% since February.
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