Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the world's biggest esports leagues is working with Nielsen to develop the first-ever comprehensive measurement system for viewership of esports broadcasts.

Why it matters: Esports audiences are growing so big that they are beginning to outpace traditional sports viewers globally. Without a way to adequately measure those audiences and compare them to TV audiences, it's harder for brands and leagues to monetize those eyeballs.

Details: The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), which is run by American video game developer Riot Games, is working with Nielsen to develop the first-ever official measurement system for esports broadcasts that truly mimics what's used to measure TV.

  • The new ratings system, called live+, encompasses both live broadcast viewership and post-event on-demand or replay video.
  • Unlike traditional sports, esports tournaments are often watched both live and after-the-fact, since audiences are global and span different timezones. Aspiring players also like to rewatch games to learn from other gamers' techniques.
  • The ratings leverage the new industry standard for viewership reporting known as average minute audience (AMA). The esports industry began late last year to adopt AMA, a unit akin to how television audiences are measured.
  • This metric will parallel Nielsen’s live+ TV ratings, which aggregate live and on-demand viewership within a designated time window to present a more complete picture of TV viewership engagement.

Be smart: TV-like ratings used to measure esports are considered more accurate than other forms of viewership metrics that many in the esports industry had previously been using, like peak concurrent viewers or peak channels.

  • "In some ways, this [new system] is not revolutionary at all because it's done the same way as TV," says Nicole Pike, managing director of Nielsen esports.
  • "But for esports, it's a big change because for the first time, it offers consistency between events, leagues, etc., and it provides an accurate summary of viewership," she added.

The big picture: The new metrics system will give leagues and advertisers a better way to compare esports viewership with that of traditional television and sports broadcasts.

  • To date, most esports-related revenue has been driven by corporate sponsorships — with ticket sales, merchandise and media rights bringing in additional revenue. Viewership-based advertising has been difficult to implement without ratings.
  • "Advertisers need to be able to compare all options against each other," says Pike.

What's next: Other major esports leagues are in touch with Nielsen about adopting the standard.

  • Nielsen has partnered with Activision Blizzard and ESL over the past year to implement the AMA standard industry-wide. It expects other esports leagues to adopt live+ as well.

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