People often compare Esports events viewership to that of the English Premier League and Super Bowl, but such a comparison is hardly fair or an accurate one. It’s difficult to know whether viewership is growing without putting in time on reviewing the statistics and understanding the context of different events.
In the following charts, let’s take a look at event viewership on a month-by-month basis of the most watched Esports events of 2019. However, before jumping on to the good stuff, we have to take into consideration, a few caveats.
The problem with viewer numbers
Viewership numbers are a bit tricky. For the business aspect of Esports, high numbers are of great importance. Publishers want interest in their game, organizers need to show something to sponsors and streaming platforms want a big traffic of visitors. But which of the numbers involved actually mean something? Do you want the most hits? Is it unique visits you’re looking for?
In reality, there isn’t just one metric that can tell you which event was the most successful. Sometimes the same numbers may not even mean the same thing, depending on how events are set up. Since earlier mentioned records were for peak viewers, we’re going to be looking at that metric here, using data from Esports Charts.
There’s also the China problem to consider. While it has a huge Esports fan base, the country’s streaming platforms have a reputation for artificially inflating their numbers.
As such, due to the reason mentioned above, Chinese platforms have been excluded from all figures that follow.
Most hours watched
Based on the amount of sheer hours watched, the League of Legends World Championship dominated the competition in 2019. One thing worth noting, though, is just how long the competition ran for. During its almost-month-long campaign, it was hosted in Berlin, Germany; Madrid, Spain; and Paris, France. The length of the event – with the best teams from each region battling it out against each other – made it a spectacle in its own right and amassed over 137 million hours watched.
Far behind was Dota 2’s The International 2019 with 88 million hours watched, firmly securing itself in second place. The events that followed still put up impressive statistics, with the IEM Katowice Major, StarLadder Major Berlin, and Mid-Season Invitational amassing 53 million, 45 million, and 43 million respectively.
Moving into the most watched tournaments in terms of average viewership, the events in question change dramatically. League of Legends World Championship and The International 2019 were both hits with 1 million and 726,000 average viewers respectively, but other events trumped them.
The finals of the Fortnite World Cup narrowly bested the League of Legends World Championship, maintaining an average viewer base of 1.1 million – though the event itself lasted for a much shorter amount of time when the two are compared. The most popular event based on this metric was the Free Free World Series Rio with 1.2 million average viewership!
Peak viewership for events in 2019 vary quite differently from hours watched and average viewership, though the League of Legends World Championship remained a force to be reckoned with peak viewership of 3.9 million – an incredible figure no other event got anywhere remotely close to. Once you look past Riot Games’ flagship tournament, the playing field is a lot more level.
The Fortnite World Cup Finals reached a peak of 2.3 million viewers, with the Free Fire World Series Rio maxing out at 2 million. Rounding out the top five events are The International 2019 and the Mid-Season Invitational – another global League of Legends affair – with 1.9 million and 1.7 million respectively.
So, it’s clear that depending on the lens in which you view ‘popularity’ when it comes to events, the outcomes can vary wildly. Utilising any metric, it’s clear that the League of Legends Worlds Championship was a stand-out occasion in the calendar and will likely be one again in 2020.
Free Fire is not a game to dismiss when it comes to popularity, while Dota 2 certainly needs its flagship The International series to remain in the picture as one of the most viewed titles in the industry.