More people tuned in to watch last year’s League of Legends world finals than the NBA finals, but e-sports remains outside of mainstream viewing habits. Will 2017 be the year that professional gamers get the same recognition as those of traditional sports?

E-sports streaming already gets a massive international audience on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, but Australia’s Fetch TV is looking to turn it from laptop/tablet to television viewing with the launch of a new dedicated e-sports TV channel earlier this month.

This new channel is a local launch of the Malaysian-based eGG “Every Good Game” channel, and Fetch hopes that it will give them and their advertisers access to the lucrative early-adopter 18-34 demographic. Indeed, the millennial age-group makes up 65% of e-sports viewers, with 43% in households with income over $70,000 (£57,000), according to research by Mindshare.

While the industry may currently appear to target men, 52% of gamers are actually women, which makes e-sports a new avenue for advertisers looking to target the female demographic that has traditionally been less interested in conventional sports.

Traditional broadcasters and cable firms have been slow to realise the value in the growth of e-sports. The likes of Sky and BT Sport in the UK have clamoured for the rights to broadcast Premiership football matches, but for the viewing numbers e-sports currently offer a much cheaper alternative to reach millions of fans across the globe.

Gambling firms have been quick to realise the value of these new markets, with firms such as Betway already offering a dedicated section of their sports portal to e-sports, where fans can put money on the winners and losers of popular games such as Defense of the Ancients (Dota) 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). The betting markets for e-sports remains smaller than for the likes of the NFL or NBA, but as more people tune in to watch the games, one can be sure that a substantial number of them will start to put wagers on the outcome.

Now that the games are broadcast in millions of people’s homes, with millions of viewers online, and with its own awards ceremony – 2017 might mark the year when e-sports start to be taken seriously.

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