Understanding ROI Behind the Live Streaming of Esports

And where to set KPIs so marketers can reap those benefits

A large audience watching 4 screens on a large stage
Live streams in esports need different strategies than VOD. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Greg Paull

A recent report that live streaming mega-star Ninja aka Tyler Blevins might have as many as 4 million duplicate followers across Twitch, Facebook and YouTube proved less than a bombshell. Loyal fans of gamers are mostly male between the ages 18 to 34 and are likely to follow the same celebrity across multiple platforms. To think otherwise would be naïve when the average person has around seven active social media accounts.

Besides doing its job as clickbait, the findings of the study did highlight an interesting question that is sure to make an appearance again. What should marketers care about more: targeting a volume of individual viewers or engaging hardcore fans across different platforms?

The battle against view-botting

If an opportunity is what marketers are looking for, live streaming of esports is one destination promising a gold rush. Brands like Mastercard and Nike have made significant investments into the industry, looking to capitalize on an ecosystem that includes digital payments to fitness programs for gamers, which will itself be an industry.

There is, unfortunately, no way of getting around the dismal fact that digital marketing is fraught with shady numbers. Live streaming esports has its villains in view bots, scripts that artificially inflate live view counts or mimic the chat interactions common in live stream engagement. Twitch has been waging war against companies that produce view bots, going so far as to take the culprits to court, but as long as monetization from views is a drawcard, technology will be invented to circumvent the real thing.

Advertisers have every right to be disgruntled if they discover that they are paying for fewer unique viewers than they signed up for, though it might not be the smartest KPI to benchmark engagement of this type of medium and audience.

Setting smarter KPIs

If you’re looking to embark on engaging audiences through live video streaming in the esports arena, here are three things to keep in mind.

Have a digital profile of your audience

Once you have defined the type of engagement you want to achieve, work to understand how your target customer is likely to respond in a given situation. Marketers already do this for other kinds of consumer engagement, and live streaming should be no different.

More than 70 percent of streamers who tune into esports are male, with 79 percent under the age of 35. They have multiple social media profiles and participate in conversations online about their favorite games and players. Going back to the issue of finding that viewers have duplicate accounts, according to Nielsen, esports fans are on Facebook (57 percent), Twitter (42 percent), Instagram (36 percent), Snapchat (34 percent) and Reddit (22 percent).

Knowing this, a marketer should explore how and when a viewer engages with each of these platforms over the course of a single stream rather than considering more accounts to be a threat to overall engagement.

Live streaming is not VOD

You can’t use the same criteria to measure two different species. Advertisers need to have a clear idea of how they intend to communicate their message during a live stream broadcast and implement a different strategy once that stream lives on as VODs.

In a live stream, viewers are a captive audience. Looking away for a moment means running the risk of missing something. Viewers are also less likely to click away from the site in the middle of the action. They are part of the stories that happen, which explains longer, uninterrupted views. A user on Twitch spends an average of 95 minutes on the platform per day and more than half watch 20 hours of video a week.

Watching the clock still pays

Measuring the length of views is still a dependable metric to gauge levels of engagement. These are useful analytics to review when deciding on which streamer to sponsor and should supplement information on a streamer’s total number of followers.

Keeping watch for when viewership is likely to drop-off also helps producers shorten the duration of future live streams or inject a moment of suspense of fun before viewers lose interest. Marketers might also want to use a benchmark like the average minute audience (AMA) metric used by TV broadcasters to compare concurrent viewership in an average minute of video stream.


Greg Paull is the principal and co-founder of R3.
Publish date: May 28, 2019 https://dev.adweek.com/brand-marketing/understanding-roi-behind-the-live-streaming-of-esports/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT