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Brief Published: 25 Sep 2014

The Rise of Spectator Gaming

League of Legends final, Los Angeles

Earlier this month, media industry leaders convened in New York for three days to attend the Digital Media Week conference hosted by Los Angeles-based publication Digital Media Wire. While discussions covered a broad spectrum of digital media, the booming business of video games as spectator entertainment generated the most excitement.

This upsurge is enabled largely by Amazon’s recent $1bn acquisition of subscription-based video-streaming site Twitch, which allows the video-gaming community to broadcast games, chat and play. Twitch had more than 1 million unique “broadcasters” whose streams attracted over 60 million unique viewers last month, making it the Internet’s fifth-largest video-streaming website.

Much of Twitch’s traffic comes from competitive gaming, or eSports, which is rapidly gaining traction in the US. Matthew DiPietro – Twitch’s vice-president of marketing – highlighted recent video-game championship finals to demonstrate the scale. Last autumn, the League of Legends in Los Angeles final drew 32 million online viewers, and this summer’s Defense of the Ancients 2 tournament in Seattle – which boasted a $10.9m crowdfunded purse – drew 20 million to Twitch. Both events were hosted in arenas, with around 15,000 in attendance.

Twitch’s recent acquisition by Amazon has put it on ad buyers’ radars, and non-gaming brands are even starting to place video ads on the site, including sportswear retailer Footlocker, streaming service Netflix, electronics firm Samsung, mobile network operator T-Mobile, and major films like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Twitch also offers a unique platform to display brands in live streams – for example,  deodorant brand Speed Stick had a user occasionally apply the product while streaming his gameplay. Read more about innovations in sports marketing and popular gaming culture in Post-Digital: Storytelling 2020 and The Sports Marketing Playbook.