Did you see the ticket holder who checked himself into the game right before Lebron’s buzzer beater last week? Yup, he walked right out of the crowd in a sparkling new arena, and got to play. The game was broadcast to a record shattering audience.
In case you missed it, imagine how it felt to reject Lebron’s shot, take it the length of the floor, and dunk on one of the world’s greatest to ever play the game. If a fan has a chance to do that, imagine how much more and longer anybody watching would want to keep playing that sport. What if I told you it was a 14-year old boy, how much more inclusive would that sport seem all the sudden? If you were another kid watching this all actually happen, imagine how many more new sports dreams were just hatched.
The sport is esports and this kid just beat its Lebron. He got to play a guy named Ninja in a game called Fortnite. More kids I know play Fortnite than basketball. So, believe it or not, they would tell you this ridiculous comparison I make to the NBA is actually understating the future of esports and the excitement this event caused for the 670,000 viewing audience on Twitch. Ninja offered to not only play against this kid and others, but pay them if he lost or pay Alzheimer’s research charity if he won.
I am an old-school basketball fan. But I don’t argue with the future, I would rather invest in it. New age basketball innovator Daryl Morey says the opportunity in front of esports is like basketball in the 1950s. I will always watch the NBA on television with all my cords. But I am a digital dinosaur. After a research deep dive, I believe esports will become the most inclusive game in history. Then Ninja dunked on me, and already showed me how much bigger it will be than I estimated.
Ask a kid who plays Fortnite (but I repeat myself) if I am exaggerating with my comparison. Then imagine if, after getting beat, Lebron posted the video for all his social media followers. Ninja has 9.5 million YouTube subscribers he shared the smiles with. That Cavaliers buzzer beater had the most television viewers for a NBA first round playoff game in six years, with 6 million viewers.
If you are an investor, it gets even better. Lebron doesn’t give up a 30-40% slice of his NBA paycheck to a broadcaster, as Ninja and countless other streaming superstars do with Twitch or YouTube. There are no cutbacks needed to afford outdated network television contracts like for other sports. Esports is the first digitally native sport which comes with exponential advantages.
The broadcasters of esports have better math. Stars are creating their own content and sending it to them. All they have to do is stream it, collect a huge cut of the action, and then sign up sponsors to pay them even more.
Hot dogs in the concourse of an old sports stadium are getting disrupted as well. Esports fans who attended the event live, walked outside this new arena into Luxor’s world class casino and resort with 5-star restaurants.
“Talk data to me” was the theme of this year’s MIT Sloan Conference and here was a growth story that knocked me out of my non-gamer chair. More than 2.4 billion minutes per month were spent watching esports on Twitch alone last year. Each unique viewer watched 60 minutes per day. As 2018 began, they were at 7 billion minutes per month and 105 minutes per day per unique. A wider audience and deeper engagement?! Other traditional sports can only imagine what that trend would feel like anymore.
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