E-sports, OTT platforms are the winners of the coronavirus shutdown

2020 was tipped to be the year that E-sports went mainstream. With national teams competing in 2019’s Southeast Asian Games, revenues from streaming services at an all-time high and celebrity status afforded to elite gamers, E-sports was supposed to take the region and the world by storm.

Then the coronavirus outbreak happened.

Almost overnight, real sporting events were shuttered.

Regional sporting events were canceled en-masse or held behind closed doors including One-Championship MMA bouts and racing events.

Sports that had large Asian viewerships were also postponed indefinitely including the main football leagues of Europe and the NBA in the United States.

For a region attuned to watching professional leagues on their mobile applications or online, E-Sports was a logical next step, especially among younger viewers.

According to statistics released by the world’s largest game streaming platform, Twitch, the number of viewers has increased sharply since the start of the outbreak.

The total hours spent watching gaming streams on the platform worldwide has increased by nearly 130 million hours.

The average number of concurrent viewers have also increased to around 1.4 million viewers from 1.1 million viewers in December.

In Thailand, over the past month, the most popular streamer RebirthzTV averaged around 4,500 viewers per stream. That is higher than the average league attendance of the Thailand Premier League before the shutdown.

OTT Platforms

Platforms like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video also look set to benefit from quarantine measures not only in Thailand and the region but all over the world.

While Netflix and Amazon do not release to the public statistics on viewership, producers and directors say that it was only logical that their numbers would increase.

“In Asia, I think Netflix and Amazon have done an amazing job getting out ahead of the competitor,” said a former senior manager at HBO in Asia.

“If you look at the competitors in the States, Hulu, Disney+, they haven’t really made their platforms available worldwide to take advantage of this unforeseen market.”

Nicholas Simon, the CEO of Indochina Production agrees with the assessment.

“Home viewing is playing to the strengths of the OTT platforms,” he said. “The main concern in the coming weeks will be bandwidth as viewers reach new peaks.”

For Netflix, original content should not be a problem but analysts say that for other platforms that do not yet have the made-for-internet content that Netflix does, there may be problems.

“Productions are getting postponed in the US and Europe due to insurance concerns and Covid-19 considerations,” said the HBO senior manager. “If the plague continues, look for anxious studio heads to start finding alternatives to producing original content.”

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