On Sunday 22nd March, Sky Sports aired a live virtual Formula 1 Grand Prix race alongside more specialist e-sports giant Twitch. The race featured a live studio commentary team and drivers included a mix of current F1 drivers, including McLaren’s Lando Norris, plus a range of other random sporting names and celebrities.
Given the lack of real live sport over the last few weeks, the event performed pretty strongly as starved sports fans tuned in.
On Sky Sports Main Event, once the programme started at 8pm, all adult viewing was two to three times higher, compared to the average of the four last ‘normal’ Sundays from 16th February to 8th March. Viewing peaked at around 138,000 at 2115, versus 70,000 on 8th March.
Surprisingly, although not your typical e-sports watchers, the interest was more pronounced amongst the 35-54 demographic, with average viewing on that Sunday evening five to seven times the same previous comparison period.
Sky Sports viewing is of course generally quite spiky given the nature of live sports events mixed with old, recorded programming, and this is true of the comparison period here. Regardless, it does show Sky are looking for innovative ways to drive up TV ratings on their sports stations during this challenging period. The figures demonstrate it is seemingly possible. A potential appetite for such content does exist amongst TV viewers, including those who might not normally be deemed a relevant target demographic.
It may be early to suggest e-sports will become a new part of mainstream entertainment in the near future, but such increased exposure certainly won’t do it any harm. If the index of recent searches for “e-sports” on Google Trends is also anything to go by, with a near 100% increase in the last week or so in the UK, sporting fans are desperate for something to watch (or play). We may well see more of the same from Sky and BT Sport in particular in the coming months.
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