Esports might have once been considered a niche market, but the top tiers of competitive gaming are now more popular than many traditional spectator sports. In 2022, the League of Legends World Championship Final brought in more than 5.15 million viewers.
However, it’s actually the 2021 edition of the Free Fire World Series that has the distinction of being the most-watched esports event in history, with the final bringing in more than 5.4 million concurrent viewers. But these viewing figures fall short of what major events like the LoL World Championship should really be generating. Sadly, it’s scheduling that’s stifling competitive gaming.
Are There Too Many Online Broadcasts for Esports Fans To Follow?
The emergence of esports was a slow and staggered process. It wouldn’t be until the arrival of streaming platforms like Twitch that high-profile esports events could achieve maximum reach with audiences from across the globe. While it’s incredibly easy for esports fans to watch live events from their smartphone or computer, this online-focused ecosystem has its drawbacks.
There’s nothing wrong with being spoiled for choice when it comes to an esports tournament schedule. However, as tournaments become more expansive and franchises grow to absorb more team rosters, simply keeping up with a single tournament can prove impossible.
Let’s take a look at League of Legends as an example. This classic MOBA is one of the most-played games on the planet. In 2023, the game had more than 117 million active players. It also spawned one of the largest esports scenes on the planet, with 9 professional leagues representing almost every continent. Then there are major international tournaments like the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship, not to mention dozens of lower-tier leagues.
Common Broadcast Barriers
Remember, this is just one single we’re talking about. Other esports staples like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive face a similar saturation situation. It’s great to have plenty of viewing options, but with so many broadcasts in the schedule, it’s impossible for audiences to keep up. Some broadcast times aren’t particularly sleep-friendly for those based in a different time zone. There’s also the option of watching the action on catch-up later, but there’s always the risk of match results being spoiled in the process. What’s more, when you’re keeping track of leagues in several territories, you’re certain to encounter scheduling overlaps.
However, it’s not only time zone differences that are making it difficult for audiences to follow their favorite teams. Many professional leagues have
incredibly condensed schedules. When more fixtures are added to a tournament schedule, fans find themselves having to choose between must-see matches. It’s obvious that the scheduling system for the most prolific esports isn’t working as smoothly as it could.
Promising Scheduling Solutions
Thankfully, tournament organizers are taking note of the scheduling situation. Riot Games recently announced some significant changes to esports scheduling for League of Legends tournaments. Most reassuringly of all, this shakeup was formulated for the benefit of fans, rather than players and franchises.
Riot Games realized that many LoL fans were following several international leagues. Rather than force viewers to pick one or the other, Riot has gone to great lengths to minimize the number of concurrent matches, reducing the chance of overlaps. Fan feedback also revealed that many viewers were just as excited about must-see matches held in other territories as they were to see their favorite rosters in action. Once again, Riot Games has made a commitment to adjust fixture times and dates to deliver a broadcast schedule that caters to everyone.
Until recently, many esports fans had to spend most of their weekend watching match marathons to stay updated. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional mammoth viewing session, it’s not the best way to pace a world-renowned esports competition. Interestingly, research reveals that audiences are very likely to seek out esports content during the week. While weekend schedules will remain a staple for many leagues, the likes of the LCS, LPL, and Valorant EMEA League will now split matches more evenly between weekend and weekday dates.
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