Did You Watch the Super Bowl Or eSports This Weekend?



New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons In Super Bowl LI (Photo: EA Sports)

TNL Take: This weekend saw amazing sports competition. Intense rivalries.  Fans going crazy. Fierce action.

And there was also the first half of Super Bowl LI.

I'm kidding.

You were more than likely part of the ~110M around the country that watched The Biggest Event Of The Year™. In the ever shifting media landscape, there is no other vehicle that engages us Americans for 3 hours every year than the Super Bowl.

However this weekend also saw some big developments in another area.

In the perfect timing department, this past Thursday I wrote about my belief that 2017 will be a pivotal year for eSports broadcast rights and TV/Distribution monetization.

Then on Friday came this announcement: EA Sports is partnering with NFL Network and Univision to broadcast this weekend's Madden Bowl and another deal with ESPN to show this weekend's FIFA Regional Finals in Paris.

Madden Bowl 17 Championship Belt (Photo: EA Sports)

Let's start with Madden first.

That Madden Bowl being broadcast on the NFL Network wasn't anything new - I even mentioned that also last week - but the addition of Univision Deportes is great to see.  This is the 2nd eSports program for Univision after airing December's Madden Classic in LA.

The ratings will be out shortly and I'll provide an update but here's a viewership comparison:

  • NFL Network [Fri 1/27 9:00PM - 10:00PM]  129,000 and 58,000 in 18-49
  • Univision Deportes Madden Classic [12/5 9:00PM - 10:00PM] 23,000 and 18,000 in 18-49

Any eSports numbers equivalent to prior programming is probably considered a win.

Madden Bowl was also streamed across EA.com, Twitch, Facebook and YouTube Gaming. Checking throughout the broadcast, Twitch was drawing ~3X the viewers as YouTube Gaming or Facebook, which were both about the same:

Madden Bowl Streaming Viewership - Twitch, Facebook, YouTube Gaming (Photo: Manny Anekal Twitter)

Considering it's still very early days for competitive Madden and this was only the 2nd Major, the streaming audience wasn't bad. In fact, during the Friday Madden Bowl Finals, the individual channel had the highest peak viewership on Twitch - equal to eSports powerhouse DoTA2, more than Ubisoft's Rainbow 6 Invitational and much more than the Halo Championship Series.

The entire Madden Bowl was amazing with the Finals coming down to the wire and Chris "Dubby" McFarland taking home the belt and $75,000.

EA Sports FIFA Paris Regional Finals (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Sports FIFA Paris Regional Finals (Photo: EA Sports)

More interesting was EA Sports FIFA partnership with ESPN which will be the first time the network airs an eSports event on its flagship channel.

As it's already been noted, the ESPN broadcast is not only tape delayed but runs smack in the middle of the Super Bowl.  Here's what ESPN aired last year against Super Bowl 50 and how it compares against eSports on TV:

eSports On TV and ESPN 2016 Super Bowl Programming (Chart: The Next Level)

It's a smart counter-programming move with very little downside. I'm eager to see what the ratings will be.

Here's the full schedule for FIFA across ESPN and Univision:

  • Saturday, February 4th (Paris): Live at 12pm on ESPN Deportes & ESPN3
  • Sunday, February 5 (Paris): 6-7pm ESPN (Tape Delay)
  • Saturday, February 11 (Sydney): Live at 3am on ESPN Deportes & ESPN3, 7am on ESPN2 (Tape Delay)
  • Sunday, February 19 (Miami): Live at 7pm on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, April 8 (Vancouver): Live at 8pm on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, April 22 (Singapore): Live at 6am on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, May 6 (Madrid): Live at 11am on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, May 20 (Berlin – Grand Final): Live at 11am on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes

Further, the FIFA Finals featured an Athlete sponsored by German Soccer team FC Schalke 04, one of the 30+ Pro Teams that have invested in eSports.

EA Sports FIFA Paris Regional Finals (Photo: EA Sports)

Looks like 2017 should easily eclipse 2016 in terms of eSports on TV.