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US Esports 2020

The Pandemic Puts the Spotlight on a Rising Industry

About This Report
Esports received heightened media attention during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. While the publicity helped bring awareness to the growing industry, the pandemic will not have a significant impact on annual esports viewership or advertising revenues in the US.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

While the coronavirus pandemic caused every major US sports league to suspend its season, esports resumed relatively quickly. Leagues pivoted from competing inside venues to an online-only format where teams and production crews operated remotely. Esports received a good deal of media attention as a result, but very few viewers in the US said they turned to esports in lieu of sports cancellations, nor was esports a significant part of increased time spent with media during the pandemic.

How has the pandemic changed our outlook on US esports ad revenues?

Our updated ad revenue forecast for 2020 is only about $3 million lower than previously expected. Despite any short-term struggles from large advertising downturns, the outlook for esports remains positive. This year, US esports ad revenues will still grow 12% to $196 million.

How big is the US esports audience?

We expect there will be more than 35 million monthly esports viewers in the US this year, up 10.6% year over year. This forecast was completed prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the US, but survey data indicates that the pandemic won’t affect these figures.

How are marketers approaching esports?

Esports is growing to resemble traditional sports more closely, creating more opportunities for sponsorships and advertising. Still, most esports marketers believe that digital video advertising and influencer collaborations are the most alluring aspects.

What is the long-term impact of esports’ “moment in the spotlight” during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Despite the media attention, surveys conducted throughout the pandemic found that few respondents were spending more time watching esports. But the mainstream exposure has increased awareness around esports, and that could have a positive impact on viewership over time.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report breaks down our forecast for US esports ad revenues and viewership, as well as the expanding opportunities for marketers.

KEY STAT: US ad spending on esports will grow by 12% in 2020, reaching $196 million. This number is about $3 million lower than previously expected since the pandemic led us to lower our estimates for all video advertising.

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

14expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Esports Grows in the Shadow of the Pandemic
  3. Esports Viewership
  1. Esports Ad Revenues
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. eMarketer Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Maisie Antoniello
Jones Soda Co.
Vice President of Marketing
Interviewed April 9, 2020
Matthew Archambault
Riot Games
Head of Esports Partnerships and Business Development for North America
Interviewed March 20, 2020
Joe Barnes
Bud Light
Director of Sports Marketing
Interviewed March 12, 2020
Emma Chiu
Wunderman Thompson Intelligence
Global Director
Interviewed April 23, 2020
Peter Chun
Senior Vice President, Global Head of Partnerships and Growth
Interviewed June 1, 2020
Dan Conti
Partner, Director, Sports and Live
Interviewed May 5, 2020
Wil Danielson
Nextar Digital
Head of Revenue and Client Success
Interviewed April 29, 2020
Walker Jacobs
Chief Revenue Officer
Interviewed April 10, 2020
Eric John
Senior Director, Video Center of Excellence
Interviewed March 28, 2020
Noah Mallin
IMGN Media
Chief of Strategy
Interviewed March 19, 2020
Claire Nellessen
Wunderman Thompson Seattle
Senior Art Director
Interviewed April 22, 2020
Stephanie Perdue
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Vice President of Brand Marketing
Interviewed May 18, 2020
Bruce Renny
ROKiT Phones
Marketing Director
Interviewed April 15, 2020
Natalia Vasilyeva
Vice President of Marketing
Interviewed March 26, 2020


Blake Droesch


Ross Benes
Eric Haggstrom
Forecasting Analyst
Chuck Rawlings
Peter Vahle
Forecasting Analyst
Debra Aho Williamson
Principal Analyst
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst
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