Twitch TV, ESPN and eSports. What’s a brand to think?

Back in 1979, the idea of an all-sports, 24-hour cable network was right out of left field.  At the time, the three major networks combined only covered sports for 20 hours a week.

Then ESPN launched with $30 grand, a satellite transponder, and a small building in Bristol, Connecticut built over a waste dump.

ESPN programming opened with a grab-bag filled with slow-pitch softball, Irish hurling and tractor pulls. Sports Illustrated called it “one of the strangest creations in the history of mass communications.”

Today, ESPN is a media juggernaut that dominates sports around the world. Now owned by ABC and Disney, there are multiple ESPN channels and properties including ESPN Radio, ESPN Magazine, ESPN Films and event management. They broadcast the NFL, NBA, MLB, Soccer World Cup, Olympics and X games.

Forbes magazine has ESPN at #32 on their ranking or World’s Most Valuable Brands. By their estimate, the brand value is 15.8 billion. Not bad for a network that began 38 years ago with 30,000 subscribers.

ESPN was the world’s first dedicated sports channel. Now, we’re seeing the rise of another new channel dedicated to eSports and fantasy games. Is Twitch TV the next ESPN? Should brands be ready to jump on the eSports rocket?

Twitch TV is a website where the world’s top video gamers battle each other. It’s everything that impresses a marketing exec: immersive, interactive and streamed live to millions of users worldwide. Nearly 94% of Twitch users are men and 64% of them are the goldmine 18 to 34 demo.

With virtual reality technology and hardware rolling out, eSport games are on fuego. The platform now has over 100 million unique visitors a month. Amazon was so impressed they bought Twitch for $970 million.

That all begs a nearly billion dollar question: should your brand connect with eSports and the world of Twitch? After all, Twitch trails only Netflix, Apple, and Google when it comes to peak internet traffic in the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal.

The answers depend on your brand positioning, strategy and company values. Is your brand bold and edgy, innovative and high-tech, with a half geek, half gamer attitude? Then eSports may be an ideal fit. As old school network sports decline, eSports plays a fresher game with greater involvement, a higher level of fantasy and significantly lower costs for brands.

Are you a challenger brand willing to take a few risks or an older, established brand looking to rejuvenate perceptions? Are you after an audience that hits the psychographics for fantasy and role playing? Then sponsorship of eSport competitions like League of Legends and Dota 2 may be the perfect expression of your mission and strategy.

Our Plus Network research partner YouGov just released an in-depth report on the future of eSports. Their figures show that in the U.S. over 40%% of adults have heard of eSports and among those who have watched eSports, 72% are interested to watch in the future. That’s a trajectory worth following closely.

We live in a technology-driven world that’s transforming every form of entertainment. We’ve gone from a passive seat on the couch to an immersive, interactive and often mobile experience. Are eSports the future? Is Twitch TV the next ESPN? The next game just started and the brand possibilities are exponential.