What’s in the Esports Market for Disney?


Apr. 3 2019, Published 8:05 a.m. ET

ESPN hosting college esports championship

Walt Disney’s (DIS) sports television network ESPN will host its maiden esports college championship in May. College teams from across North America will compete in various videogames including Overwatch, Street Fighter, and Heroes of the Storm. Most of the featured games were developed by Activision Blizzard (ATVI).

The college esports championship marks an expansion of Disney’s involvement in esports, a new type of sports entertainment that’s gaining popularity. Last year, ESPN bought the broadcast rights to Overwatch’s esports league.

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Brands seek exposure through esports

According to Newzoo estimates, 453.8 million people will watch esports matches around the world in 2019. By 2022, the global esports audience is expected to grow to 645 million people. In North America alone, the estimates show that esports matches will draw 23.9 million enthusiasts in 2019. Big brands have started aligning themselves with esports to increase their brand awareness among fans—mostly young people. T-Mobile (TMUS), Coca-Cola (KO), and Intel (INTC) secured spots as official sponsors of the 2019 edition of Overwatch’s esports league.

$1.1 billion up for grabs 

For Disney’s ESPN, there’s a huge revenue opportunity in the esports world. According to Newzoo, the global esports market will generate $1.1 billion in revenues this year—an increase of 26.7% from last year. By 2022, the esports market is forecast to be worth $1.8 billion in revenues. As television networks struggle with a loss of subscribers, esports promises to be a saving grace for Disney’s EPSN.


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