How To Compare Overwatch and League of Legends Esports Viewership?
As we come to the end of Stage 1 of the Overwatch League’s inaugural season it’s a good time to check in on how OWL viewership is doing.
Industry sentiment has been that Riot Games’ North American LCS is measuring stick to judge OWL against since they are both the flagship franchised leagues of their respective game publishers, but some have argued that Riot’s European LCS might be the more accurate measuring stick, specifically with regards to peak and average concurrent non-Chinese platform viewership.
Neither of these comparisons is particularly apples-to-apples. Let’s explore further.
As a reminder, Activision-Blizzard has made the Overwatch League the single flagship global professional league for Overwatch rather than creating a series of regional leagues for North America, China, Europe, Korea, Brazil, etc.
By contrast, Riot has 13 different professional League of Legends leagues each serving a distinct region (e.g. NA LCS for North America, EU LCS for Europe, LCK for Korea, LPL for China, etc.)
While fans of one region are of course free to watch the professional league of a different region (e.g. a French fan can choose to tune in for NA LCS, or an American fan can be a diehard LCK fan), league broadcasts typically cater towards the home region, though this varies. Some leagues in Asia such as the Korean LCK and Chinese LPL offer English streams, while the North American and European leagues do not offer official Asian language broadcasts. This is useful to keep in mind when attempting to compare viewership between OWL and regional professional LoL leagues.
Because OWL is a single global league while Riot has chosen a regional league model, direct comparisons are difficult– comparing the combined viewership of all 13 professional League of Legends leagues against Activision’s OWL is a fruitless exercise. Similarly, comparing viewership of any 1 of the 13 regional LoL leagues with Activision’s single global esports league is a false equivalence.
The best comparison might actually be Riot’s Midseason Invitational or World Championship vs. playoffs/championship of OWL since in those events teams from Riot’s regional leagues square off in one tournament, similar to what happens in the postseason of OWL. Both competitions are happening later this year and will warrant more analysis when viewership numbers become available.
Now, to discuss numbers!
Week 1 viewership for OWL was extremely high, with the launch of a new Tier 1 esports league drawing many people curious to see what all the fuss about. Since then, viewership has equalized and over the last several weeks EU LCS has had higher Western viewership than OWL, though EU LCS kicked off one week after. For example, for the week of Jan. 24-28:
Comparison of peak viewership for Overwatch League vs. EU LCS excluding Chinese platforms and MLG.tv (Week of Jan 24-28):
Total: 214, 861 vs. 230,284
- Peak Chinese viewership for OWL that week was 965,544
- EU LCS does not have a Chinese-language stream, but peak viewership for LPL (China’s pro LoL league) that same week was 22,691,707
- Sidenote: If you didn’t realize just how big esports are in China, this stat really puts it into perspective.
- For comparison, NA LCS peak viewership that week was 327,937 or about 52% more than OWL viewership on Twitch.
A few things to consider about these numbers:
- EsportsCharts’ OWL viewership stats do not pull data from Activision-Blizzard’s internal MLG.tv platform, so OWL viewership is higher than calculated above. That said, Twitch is a far more popular platform than MLG and it is unclear how MLG viewership is calculated (e.g. during Week 1, Activision-Blizzard auto-played the OWL broadcast for players logging into the Overwatch client– a controversial practice, and many video platforms do not count autoplay views. Activision-Blizzard said that 10 million tuned in for the first week of OWL but did not get deep in the weeds about how that number broke down.)
- For all the reasons discussed above, EU LCS + LPL Chinese viewership is not apples-to-apples with OWL viewership, any more than NA LCS or EU LCS viewership is to OWL viewership excluding Chinese platforms.
- Peak viewership is only one metric. Again, excluding Chinese platforms, average concurrent viewership through 4 weeks of OWL and 3 weeks of LCS is roughly 144,000 for both OWL and EU LCS, while NA LCS is a bit above 194,000. Hours watched is a little fuzzier since OWL has broadcast for 100+ hours (they have matches four days a week) so far this season while NA LCS and EU LCS (which broadcast two days a week) are hovering closer to a third.
It bears repeating: direct comparisons of OWL’s single global league and Riot’s regional leagues is akin to comparing apples to oranges and definitely false equivalence– but if you acknowledge those shortcomings and look at the data, there are interesting contrasts.
The veteran NA and EU LCS leagues continue to attract strong viewership across Twitch and YouTube five years after their debut. Meanwhile, Overwatch’s viewership has stabilized from its Week 1 debut but is on track to climb in the future as the product is honed and features such as Twitch drops (very popular in other esports ecosystems such as CSGO) for broadcast viewers come online.
One thing is for certain– 2018 is on track to be a banner year for esports content.
Dr. Disrespect Breaks Twitch
After a nearly two month break from the streaming platform Twitch, Dr. Disrespect has made his triumphant return in one of the most watched non-esports streams of all time. “The Doc” — who in an emotional video confessed his infidelity to his wife — took time off from all social media to reflect and repair his relationship with his family. His first stream back peaked at 387,000 live concurrent viewers, just shy of the Tyler1 record of 403,000 which was set earlier this year.
Breaking Twitch is no easy feat, and that goes to show the popularity of Dr. Disrespect. The site was down for about 10 minutes, with The Doc tweeting simply “Broke @Twitch”.
Even through all his on-screen bravado, Dr. Disrespect is not a man without controversy. When he announced that he was taking a break from Twitch in his first ever video filmed out-of-character, a Reddit comment quipped “I wonder if the character of doc will ever be able to recover after this”. It seems now, that those concerns have been quelled.
The glasses donning, mustache growing PUBG playing persona has taken Twitch by storm over the past year, developing an unbelievably loyal and large following, including nearly 450k Twitter followers, and almost 50 million lifetime channel views on his Twitch channel. His corporate sponsors — which have stuck with him since the announcement of his break — include Turtle Beach, Asus Republic of Gamers, G-Fuel, Discord, Razer, and Need-4-Seat.
Throughout the discourse of his stream yesterday, Doc discussed the rebuilding process he and his wife undertook over the past several weeks while he has been AFK. “It’s a learning process. It’s a rebuilding process. It’s a strengthening process…As we mature, as we increase our knowledge about each other as individuals and a group, we’re starting to understand some things.” His wife plays a character on his stream — known as Mrs. Assassin — but has yet to show her face. In a now viral video announcing his return, an unseen woman (presumably, his wife) is sitting on Doc’s shoulders, holding a knife to his neck.
The Doc, played by former game developer Guy Beahm clearly lives by his on-screen mantra: “Violence. Speed. Momentum.” His character, in addition to earning him significant corporate sponsors, also netted him multiple $500 donations during yesterday’s stream alone, and one donation that came in at $5,000. The financial success of the man behind the sunglasses, it seems, will not slow down regardless of his actions.
Whether or not you agree with how he handled this situation, one thing is clear: The Doc is back. And he’s here to stay.