Pro gaming leagues are seeing a huge spike in viewership

Photo: Riot Games

With people stuck at home looking for things to watch, some of the biggest esports leagues in the world are seeing a big spike in viewership. That includes professional competitions for League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, both of which have seen record-breaking numbers over the last few weeks.

The 11th season of the ESL Pro League, which ran from March 16th to April 12th, was what the league describes as “the most successful season in the competition’s history.” That includes a new record of 489,120 concurrent viewers across all platforms for the CS:GO league. The league also says that total hours watched were up 113.2 percent compared to last year and that the average minute audience reached 164,494, a jump of 215.5 percent compared to season 10.

Elsewhere, the League of Legends European Championship broke its peak concurrent viewership record as well, with 476,599 people tuning in to watch a week three match between eventual finalists G2 Esports and Fnatic. The LEC says this was the most-watched regular season game in the competition’s history. Similarly, the league’s average minute audience was up 10 percent compared to last spring, though no specific numbers were released.

The numbers get even bigger when you factor in the playoffs. According to analytics firm Esports Charts, the championship match for League of Legends Champions Korea saw a record 1,074,561 peak concurrent viewers tuning in to watch T1 sweep Gen.g on their way to a ninth LCK title. In Europe, the LEC similarly hit an impressive peak of 807,033 viewers for the finals between G2 and Fnatic. The league says that the average minute audience hit 694,266 across all platforms. Altogether the LEC says fans watched 10,662,283 hours of playoff content, an increase of 71.35 percent compared to last year.

Those are a lot of numbers, but together, they illustrate how esports competitions have managed to fill a void during a particularly difficult period. With most sports canceled and few other live competitions around, professional gaming leagues have been uniquely situated to adapt to an online-only structure in order to keep going.