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Over the past few years, esports have taken the gaming world by storm. Although China accounts for 57% of worldwide esports viewership, according to IHS Markit, the market in Europe has gained a lot of attention recently for its rapid growth.
In the run-up to this week’s Wargaming.net 2017 World of Tanks Grand Finals in Moscow, one of the event’s sponsors, PayPal, commissioned SuperData Research to investigate the esports marketplace in 12 countries in Europe. The May 2017 study found that revenues derived from esports in the region totaled $301 million in 2016, and are expected to reach nearly $346 million in 2018.
Sweden was Europe’s largest market last year, with $40.8 million in esports revenues, followed by Russia ($35.4 million), France ($22.5 million) and the UK ($16.8 million).
Greater interest in esports is helping drive up revenues. At the end of 2016, there were more than 22.6 million esports viewers in Europe, a number SuperData Research projects will pass 27 million this year and 30 million in 2018.
As with other digital activities, millennials dominate esports media consumption. In 2017, 62% of esports viewers in Europe will be ages 18 to 34, with Sweden and the Netherlands having the highest share of fans (71%) from that demographic, according to SuperData Research.
It is important to note that esports is still a male-dominated pastime, with males accounting for 84% of viewers in Europe as a whole. Countries such as Israel and Italy skew even further in that direction, with males making up 90% and 88% of esports viewers, respectively.
However, viewership among females is growing, and there are some countries with already sizeable female audiences. Sweden (24%), France (22%), the UK (22%) and Poland (19%) will all be above the regional average in 2017, according to SuperData. And other studies have found even higher figures. An August 2016 study by Newzoo, for example, found that 33% of the UK’s esports enthusiast community was female.
While females’ audience share grows, esports’ mostly male, millennial fandom offers advertisers an opportunity to reach a demographic segment more difficult to connect with via traditional media than in the past.
“The rapid growth of esports audiences has attracted some of the industry’s largest media and technology companies to the genre,” said Ted Hall, research director at IHS Markit. “Investment in esports will pay off for its big-name backers, as the genre expands both within its target demographic and outside it, with increasing exposure on linear TV set to bring in casual and new fans.”
IHS Markit expects esports ad spending will be worth $1 billion worldwide by 2021, up from $280 million last year—driven primarily by video ads, influencer marketing and sponsorships.
While sizeable, digital ad spending in this segment will account for less than 1% of the more than $360 billion in worldwide digital ad spending eMarketer expects to occur in 2021.
As Facebook looks to new formats such as mid-roll video ads and messaging ads, concerns remain over video ad engagement, measurement and more. This report, based on extensive interviews with marketers and ad agency executives, digs into five factors that could impact future growth—and what marketers need to know about them.
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