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eSports are huge on YouTube—even though most coverage isn’t live

Activision's "Call of Duty" is the top YouTube eSports game.Activision's "Call of Duty" is the top YouTube eSports game.
Activision's "Call of Duty" is the top YouTube eSports game.Activision

Watching videos of other people playing video games has become the new Saturday morning cartoons for millennials—except they’re doing this every day, according to Ryan Wyatt, global head of content for gaming at YouTube.

The number one source for video consumption today is YouTube, which has billions of hours of eSports and gaming content watched per month. YouTube recently released a list of the Top 10 All-Time Video Games, based on number of views, and four of those titles—League of Legends, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, and FIFA—are played as eSports.

Wyatt says the numbers show that the popularity of livestreaming on sites like MLG, Twitch, and ESL has not affected YouTube’s growth in gaming video consumption, as fans still enjoy watching eSports after the fact.

“They’re complementary products,” Wyatt says. “Live eSports event coverage is in the moment and is most popular while it’s happening because that’s where the engagement occurs. With video on demand content you can consume at your own leisure, so it’s two different worlds of content that are coming out and both are very popular.”


Thomas Owadenko, CEO of video game research firm Octoly, says gaming-related content, including eSports-themed videos, has always had a huge footprint on YouTube. But he expects these numbers to rise dramatically as YouTube puts more emphasis on livestreaming and the YouTube Gaming website and standalone app.

“This is especially true with games that have a significant percentage of eSports videos, such as League of Legends and Call of Duty,” Owadenko says.

And in the video livestreaming market, YouTube could have the potential to dominate as well.

“Twitch clearly has the lead in video game livestreaming and eSports, but if all game-related YouTubers start using YouTube to do livestreaming, they could be back in the game soon,” says Peter Warman, CEO of Newzoo. “Often gamers can choose between Twitch or YouTube streams when it comes to eSports events.” Warman estimates that the hours spent by consumers watching video content on YouTube is still around five times larger than the amount of time they watch livestreaming platform Twitch.

While his previous employer, Major League Gaming, signs eSports players and personalities to exclusive livestreaming contracts, Wyatt says YouTube takes a different approach.

“We don’t spend money on exclusive contracts,” Wyatt says. “Our mission is to create, share, and broadcast. There’s a great opportunity to do more with livestreaming and live broadcasting.”