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The business of video gaming is big and getting bigger, with a majority of US adults playing this year. A burgeoning area of the gaming industry is much like with regular sports: when people aren’t playing them, they like to watch others play. Indeed, so-called e-sports is continuing its rapid rise, with spending on the category in the US expected to reach $281 million this year, per forecasts from PwC.

To put the growth of e-sports into perspective, in the 4 years between 2014 and 2018, spending on e-sports overall (including consumer contribution, sponsorship, streaming advertising, consumer ticket sales and media rights) quadrupled from $56 million to $222 million. This fast ascent is expected to continue into 2023, when PwC forecasts that total e-sports spending in the US will reach $516 million.

Six in 10 (59%) of the more than 2,000 respondents to a survey [download page] by Manatt-Vorhaus say they have heard of e-sports. About 1 in 8 US adults surveyed who say they have not heard of e-sports say they are interested in learning more.

While more than one-third (37%) of those who are aware of e-sports report attending an in-person e-sports event at least once a year, more respondents have watched an event remotely. Indeed, almost half (47%) say they watched events remotely at least once a year.

What’s more, close to half (46%) of those who have watched e-sports events say they now watch more than they did 6 months ago, while about two-fifths (42%) say they watch the same amount as they did 6 months prior.

Events aside, some 43% say they will increase the time they spend watching e-sports in the next 6 months.

Nearly half (48%) of the US adults who watch e-sports report that they prefer watching content live or on-demand for free (with ads) on platforms such as YouTube, Twitch or traditional TV. Another quarter (28%) of respondents say they prefer to watch content for a subscription fee (ad-free), which also includes access to exclusive digital goods and content. Fewer still (18% share) say that their preferred mode of a viewing content is through a one-time purchase (such as pay-per-view) where they download or stream over the internet.

About the Data: E-Sports spending figures include: consumer contributions; E-Sports sponsorship; E-Sports streaming advertising; E-Sports consumer ticket sales; and E-Sports media rights. The 2018-2023 projected compound annual growth rate is 18.4%.

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