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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Major sports broadcasters are leaning into eSports to fill the programming gaps left from leagues canceling professional sports games because of coronavirus.

The state of play: ESPN on Sunday aired 12 hours of esports including Rocket League, NBA 2K, and Madden.

Be smart: Without live sports, the players themselves are looking to eSports to stay connected to fans.

  • Some athletes, like NBA star Kevin Durant, are using eSports tournaments to raise money for charity. A few tournaments will be used to fund coronavirus relief efforts.

By the numbers: eSports streamers like Twitch, Mixer, Caffeine, and Discord all posted their best revenue-generating month, according to data from Apptopia.

  • Other professional creators, like musicians, are also flocking to those platforms to increase exposure now that most live events have been canceled.

The big picture: At-home gaming through PCs and consoles is also exploding.

  • According to Verizon, gaming as a sector is up 75% in data usage, way ahead of standard web traffic (up 20%) and video traffic (up 12%).
  • Experts predict that the uptick from the virus will push gaming publishers to create more cross-platform gaming software.

Yes, but: Many eSports have been built around live-streaming large in-person events.

  • "I think everybody is struggling," says Jonathan Harrop, Senior Director of Global Marketing & Communications at AdColony, a mobile advertising company. "So many eSports are being pushed to live in-person events and obviously that has been completely shut down."

What's next: Harron has his doubts that eSports will catch on with the major television network audiences.

  • "There's this weird substitution paradigm at play: How do eSports do on broadcast TV versus Twitch? How many 55-year-olds are going to tune and say these aren't real people, what's happening?"

Go deeper: Social media takes center stage for athletes as sports stall

Go deeper

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations were "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

5 hours ago - World

North Korea launches 4th suspected missile test this month

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of an apparent North Korean missile test on Monday morning local time. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired "two suspected short-range ballistic missiles" eastward from Pyongyang on Monday morning local time, per South Korean and Japanese officials.

Why it matters: The fourth such launch since Jan. 5 comes days after North Korea's military warned of "stronger" action if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.