coronavirus

First US apps based on Google and Apple Exposure Notification System expected in ‘coming weeks’

Posted by | Android, Android Nougat, api, Apple, Apps, Bluetooth, Canada, computing, coronavirus, COVID-19, dave burke, exposure notification, Google, Health, location services, mass surveillance, mobile applications, mobile software, operating systems, privacy, smartphones, TC, United States | No Comments

Google Vice President of Engineering Dave Burke provided an update about the Exposure Notifications System (ENS) that Google developed in partnership with Apple as a way to help public health authorities supplement contact-tracing efforts with a connected solution that preserves privacy while alerting people of potential exposure to confirmed cases of COVID-19. In the update, Burke notes that the company expects “to see the first set of these apps roll out in the coming weeks” in the U.S., which may be a tacit response to some critics who have pointed out that we haven’t seen much in the way of actual products being built on the technology that was launched in May.

Burke writes that 20 states and territories across the U.S. are currently “exploring” apps that make use of the ENS system, and that together those represent nearly half (45%) of the overall American populace. He also shared recent updates and improvements made to both the Exposure Notification API as well as to its surrounding documentation and information that the companies have shared in order to answer questions from state health agencies, and hopefully make its use and privacy implications more transparent.

The ENS API now supports exposure notifications between countries, which Burke says is a feature added based on nations that have already launched apps based on the tech (that includes Canada, as of today, as well as some European nations). It’s also now better at using Bluetooth values specific to a wider range of devices to improve nearby device detection accuracy. He also says they’ve improved the reliability for both apps and debugging tools for those working on development, which should help public health authorities and their developer partners more easily build apps that actually use ENS.

Burke continues that there’s been feedback from developers that they’d like more detail about how ENS works under the covers, and so they’ve published public-facing guides that direct health authorities about test verification server creation, code revealing its underlying workings and information about what data is actually collected (in a de-identified manner) to allow for much more transparent debugging and verification of proper app functioning.

Google also explains why it requires that an Android device’s location setting be turned on to use Exposure Notifications — even though apps built using the API are explicitly forbidden from also collecting location data. Basically, it’s a legacy requirement that Google is removing in Android 11, which is set to be released soon. In the meantime, however, Burke says that even with location services turned off, no app that uses the ENS will actually be able to see or receive any location data.

Powered by WPeMatico

As remote work booms, Everphone grabs ~$40M for its ‘device as a service’ offer

Posted by | Android, babbel, berlin, coronavirus, COVID-19, deutsche telekom, ernst & young, Europe, european union, Everphone, Fundings & Exits, home work, Mobile, mobile device management, mobile devices, Recent Funding, remote work, Signals Venture Capital, smartphones, Startups, Swappie, tablet computer, TC | No Comments

The latest startup to see an uplift in inbound interest flowing from the remote work boom triggered by the coronavirus pandemic is Berlin-based Everphone, which sells a “mobile as a service” device rental package that caters to businesses needing to kit staff out with mobile hardware plus associated support.

Everphone is announcing a €34 million Series B funding round today, led by new investor signals Venture Capital. Other new investors joining the round include German carrier Deutsche Telekom — investing via its strategic investment fund, Telekom Innovation Pool — U.S.-based early-stage VC AlleyCorp and Dutch bank NIBC.

The Series B financing will go on expanding to meet rising demand, with the startup telling TechCrunch it’s expecting to see a 70-100% increase in sales volume versus the pre-crisis period, thanks to a doubling of inbound leads during the pandemic.

“The global pandemic has been a catalyst for growth in the field of digitization,” said CEO and co-founder, Jan Dzulko, in a statement. “We are currently experiencing a significant increase in demand at home and abroad, which is why we are aiming for European expansion with the funding.”

Everphone describes its offer as a one-stop shop, with the service covering not just the rental of (new or refurbished) smartphones and tablets but an administration and management wrapper that covers support needs, including handling repairs/replacements — with the promise of replacements within 24 hours if needed and less client risk from not having to wrangle traditional rental insurance fine print.

Other touted pluses of its “device as a service” approach include flexibility (users get to choose from a range of iOS and Android devices); lower cost (pricing depends on customer size, device choice and rental term but starts at €7,99 a month for a refurbished budget device, rising up to €49,99 a month for high-end kit with a 12-month upgrade); and rental bundles, which can include standard mobile device management software (such as Cortado and AirWatch) so customers can plug the rental hardware into their existing IT policies and processes.

Everphone reckons this service wrapper — which can also extend to include paid apps (such as Babbel for language learning) as an employee on-device perk/benefit in the bundle — differentiates its offer versus incumbent leasing providers, such as CHG-Meridian or De Lage Landen, and from wholesale distributors.

It also touts its global rollout capability as a customer draw, checking the scalability box.

Its investors (including German carrier, DT) are being fired up by the conviction that the COVID-19-induced shift away from the office to home working will create a boom in demand for well-managed and secured work phones to mitigate the risk of personal devices and personal data mingling improperly with work stuff. (On that front, Everphone’s website is replete with references to Europe’s data protection framework, GDPR, repurposed as scare marketing.)

“Everphone envisions that every employee will one day work via their smartphone,” added Marcus Polke, partner at signals Venture Capital, in a supporting statement. “With this employee-centric approach and integrated platform, everphone goes far beyond the mere outsourcing of a smartphone IT infrastructure.”

The 2016-founded startup has more than 400 customers signed up at this point, both SMEs and multinationals such as Ernst & Young. It caters to both ends of the market with an off-the-shelf package and self-service device management portal that’s intended for SMEs of between 100 and 1,500 employees — plus custom integrations for larger entities of up to 30,000 employees.

It says it’s able to offer “highly competitive” prices for renting new devices because it gives returned kit a second life, refurbishing and reselling devices on the consumer market. “Thanks to this profitable secondary lifespan, we are able to offer highly competitive prices and extensive service levels on our rental devices,” Everphone writes on its website.

The second-hand smartphone market has also been seeing regional growth. Swappie, a European e-commerce startup that sells refurbished iPhones, aligning with EU lawmakers’ push for a “‘right to repair” for electronics, raised its own ~$40 million Series B only last month, for example. Its second-hand marketplace is one potential outlet for Everphone’s rented and returned iPhones.

Powered by WPeMatico

Roblox launches Party Place, a private venue for virtual birthday parties and other meetups

Posted by | coronavirus, COVID-19, families, Gaming, kids, parents, Roblox, Social | No Comments

The coronavirus pandemic and related government lockdowns have led to a surge in online gaming — particularly on social platforms where people can connect with real-life friends in a virtual venue. We’ve already heard of Fortnite birthday parties, Roblox playdates and Animal Crossing meetups taking place online amid the pandemic. Now, Roblox is launching a new feature called “Party Place” to directly cater to the growing demand among users for a dedicated, private place to host virtual events.

The company’s new “Party Place” venue is based on the technology the gaming company built to accommodate its own virtual events, including its 7th Annual Bloxy Awards and the One World: Together At Home concert, hosted in April in collaboration with Lady Gaga.

The venue itself doesn’t offer any activities or games, but rather serves as a private place for Roblox users to gather — for example, for a virtual birthday party, a remote learning activity with classmates, for virtual playdates, or anything else. From Party Place, the group can chat and hang out as they decide which Roblox game they plan to play next.

The product is in beta testing, according to the Roblox website, and has seen only around 45.3,000 visits since its launch last week. Likely, many of these visits were just from curious kids poking around in a public area as you can today join the Party Place venue without a private server if you want to just see the venue. Roblox, however, says it’s making private servers available for free in Party Place, so parents and kids can create a place where only those friends they directly invite can join and play.

Roblox has been doing particularly well as the pandemic has forced children to stay at home under lockdown. The entertainment platform now has more than 120 million active monthly players and, as of June, surpassed a milestone of $1.5 billion in lifetime player spending, according to a report from Sensor Tower. It hit the new record only seven months after reaching its $1 billion milestone — a surge in consumer spend attributed directly to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the related growth in entertainment platforms and social gaming.

In March, Roblox revenue grew 28% month-over-month to $69.8 million, the report found. In April, revenue grew 34% to $93.2 million. And by May, sales hit close to $103 million.

Roblox had already begun catering to players’ interest in social gaming with its launch of its “Play Together” game sort in April, which made it easier for players to find those games where you socialize with others — like visiting a virtual shopping mall, going camping or riding virtual water slides, for example. These games also offer an option for private VIP servers, often for a small fee paid in Roblox’s virtual currency, Robux, which is renewed on a subscription basis until you cancel.

Of course, the company isn’t the only one developing products in response to user demand for online “hangout” spots in virtual worlds. Fortnite, for instance, introduced “Party Royale,” a game mode offering a weapons-free party island featuring mini-games and, sometimes, even live concerts. Its Travis Scott concert was hosted in the game, attracting 12.3 million concurrent players at its peak.

For today’s younger players — the COVID kids, so to speak — platforms like Fortnite and Roblox are becoming their own version of a social network. The kids don’t just go online to play. They socialize, chat and hang out with a mix of real-life friends and virtual ones, blurring the lines between online and offline in ways that traditional social networks, like Facebook, do not.

 

Powered by WPeMatico

COVID-19 has driven engagement for an already thriving gaming industry

Posted by | coronavirus, COVID-19, Gaming, npd | No Comments

A few days after releasing new figures for the month of June, NPD is offering up some broader trends for the gaming industry at large. It likely won’t surprise you to hear that the industry continues to thrive in 2020, and COVID-19-driven stay-at-home orders have only further contributed to gaming adoption here in the U.S.

According to the report, three out of four people in the U.S. play some amount of video games. That’s 244 million people — up by 32 million from 2018. Among those who play, 39% are light gamers, playing less than five hours a week; 32% are classified as moderate, at five to 15 hours, and 20% play more than 15 hours a week, putting them in the heavy camp. On average, gamers surveyed play around 14 hours a week, up from the 12 hours reported in 2018.

The novel coronavirus has driven adoption, as gaming sales have suggested for several months now. Of those surveyed, 35% say they’re playing more than they were prior to pandemic restrictions. Though most are simply playing on non-gaming-specific devices they already owned — primarily things like smartphones, tablets and computers.

Only 6% of respondents say they began gaming on a new platform. The relatively low figure seems to reflect some of the dire economics of the last several months. Few were purchasing new consoles. In the case of the Switch, Nintendo ran into some serious supply issues that have found the console out of stock in many online stores. Microsoft and Sony, meanwhile, are launching new systems before the end of the year, meaning current systems will be outdated in the not so distant future.

Powered by WPeMatico

India smartphone shipments slashed in half in Q2 2020

Posted by | Apple, Asia, China, coronavirus, COVID-19, Gadgets, Handset, hardware, india, oppo, Samsung, smartphone, vivo, Xiaomi | No Comments

Even the world’s second largest smartphone market isn’t immune to COVID-19.

Smartphone shipments in India fell 48% in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago, the most drastic drop one of the rare growing markets has seen in a decade, research firm Canalys reported Friday evening.

About 17.3 million smartphone units shipped in Q2 2020, down from 33 million in Q2 2019 and 33.5 million in Q1 2020, the research firm said.

You can blame coronavirus, more than a million cases of which has been reported in India.

New Delhi ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March to contain the spread of the virus that saw all shops across the country — save for some of those that sell grocery items and pharmacies — temporarily cease operation. Even e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Flipkart were prohibited from selling smartphones and other items classified as “non-essential” by the government.

The protracted lockdown lasted until mid-May, after which the Indian government deemed that other stores and e-commerce deliveries could resume their services in much of country. New Delhi’s stringent measure explains why India’s smartphone market dipped so heavily.

China, the world’s largest smartphone market, in comparison, saw only an 18% drop in shipments in the quarter that ended in March — the period when the country was most impacted by the virus. In Q1, when India was largely not impacted by the virus, smartphone shipments grew by 4% in the country. (Globally, smartphone shipments shrank by 13% in Q1 — a figure that is projected to only slightly improve to a 12% decline this year.)

“It’s been a rocky road to recovery for the smartphone market in India,” said Madhumita Chaudhary, an analyst at Canalys. “While vendors witnessed a crest in sales as soon as markets opened, production facilities struggled with staffing shortages on top of new regulations around manufacturing, resulting in lower production output.”

Smartphone shipment estimates for the Indian market through Q1 2019 to Q1 2020 (Canalys)

Despite the lockdown, Xiaomi maintained its dominance in India. The Chinese smartphone vendor, which has been the top smartphone vendor in India since late 2018, shipped 5.3 million smartphone units in the quarter that ended in June this year and commanded 30.9% of the local market, Canalys estimated.

With 3.7 million units shipped and 21.3% market share in India, Vivo retained the second spot. Samsung, which once ruled the Indian smartphone market and has made major investments in the country in recent months, settled for the third spot with 16.8% share.

Nearly every smartphone vendor has launched new handsets in India in recent weeks as they look to recover from the downtime, and several more new smartphone launches are planned in the next month.

But for some of these players, the virus is not the only obstacle.

Anti-China sentiment has been gaining mindshare in India in recent months, ever since more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas in June. “Boycott China” — and variations of it — has been trending on Twitter in India as a number of people posted videos destroying Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and other products. Late last month, India also banned 59 apps and services developed by Chinese firms.

Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo, which now assumes the fourth spot in India, and other Chinese smartphone vendors command nearly 80% of the smartphone market in India.

Canalys’ Chaudhary, however, believes these smartphone firms will be able to largely avoid the backlash as “alternatives by Samsung, Nokia, or even Apple are hardly price-competitive.”

Apple, which commands only 1% of the Indian smartphone market, was the least impacted among the top 10 vendors as iPhone shipments fell just 20% year-on-year to over 250,000 in Q2 2020, Canalys said.

Powered by WPeMatico

Game developer poll suggests longer hours and less productivity as the industry adapts to remote work

Posted by | coronavirus, COVID-19, Game Developers Conference, Gaming | No Comments

Ahead of the upcoming online-only version of its big annual conference, GDC commissioned a survey of 2,500 game developers to determine how the industry is coping with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While gaming sales are up as many turn to the medium to cope with stay-at-home orders, the virus appears to be impacting devs in similar (if somewhat blunted) fashion to innumerable other industries.

For starters, 32% find themselves being less productive, in spite of working longer hours. That no doubt sounds familiar to anyone who has attempted to transition to a home office amid the pandemic. Some 70% of developers say they’ve moved to working from home — if that number seems relatively low, that’s only because 27% of those surveyed say they were already working from home. That leaves some 3% in the office, I suppose.

One-quarter of respondents say their household income has declined, while a third say their business has declined over the last few months. A third also say they’ve had a project delayed. That could certainly complicate the upcoming schedules of the latest version of the Xbox and PlayStation, both due out at the end of the year.

The shift toward moving online found many companies scrambling to update their workflows, including a shift to different cloud services. Though, the nature of the industry means that many were already accustomed to having a distributed workforce prior to the pandemic. While two-thirds say their company has a plan to return to the office, only 12% feel safe returning to the office right now.

The majority of respondents added that they believe the pandemic will permanently change some aspect of their workplace, going forward. “We had to make some changes on our daily tasks to compensate not being at our office working physically together, but those have proven to increase our efficiency and productivity,” one developer responded. “Lately we have even talked about embracing the home office configuration even after the pandemic.”

Powered by WPeMatico

Coronavirus impact sends app downloads, usage and consumer spending to record highs in Q2

Posted by | Apple, Apps, coronavirus, Google, Google Play, iOS, Mobile | No Comments

As the world continued to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the second quarter of 2020 became the largest yet for mobile app downloads, usage and consumer spending. According to new data from app store intelligence firm App Annie, mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, even hitting an all-time high of over 200 billion hours during April. Consumer spending in apps, meanwhile, hit a record high of $27 billion in the second quarter. And app downloads reached a high of nearly 35 billion.

The growth in app usage has been fueled by social distancing and lockdown measures, as countries around the world try to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Image Credits: App Annie

In India, for example, time spent in apps grew 35% in Q2 2020 from Q4 2019. Italy and Indonesia saw growth of 30% and 25%, respectively. In the U.S., time spent in apps grew 15%.

App Annie says now the average user is spending 4 hours and 20 minutes per day on their smartphones.

Image Credits: App Annie

But consumers aren’t just launching apps they already have installed on their phones — they’re also downloading new ones. In the second quarter, consumers downloaded nearly 35 billion new apps, an all-time high.

Google Play accounted for 25 billion of those downloads, representing 10% year-over-year growth. India and Brazil were the the two largest markets for Google Play in the quarter.

Image Credits: App Annie

iOS downloads grew 20% year-over-year to reach nearly 10 billion. The U.S. and China were iOS’s biggest markets for downloads, but the U.S. and Saudi Arabia saw the most quarter-over-quarter growth. The latter was likely attributed to a nationwide lockdown and school closures, driving app downloads in the country to a all-time high in April and 100% year-over-year growth on iOS.

Games were downloaded at record levels in the quarter, App Annie noted, totaling 14 billion games. In the first week of Q2, weekly mobile game downloads broke records at over 1.2 billion, and weekly download levels remained at 1 billion on average throughout the quarter, up 20% year-over-year.

Image Credits: App Annie

Non-gaming apps represented over half (55%) of the new downloads on Android and 70% of those on iOS.

More specifically, top categories outside of games included “Tools” and “Entertainment” on Google Play and “Photo and Video” and “Entertainment” on iOS. But other categories saw strong growth, including “Business,” “Health & Fitness” and “Education,” which saw quarter-over-quarter growth in downloads of 115%, 75% and 50% respectively on Google Play.

On iOS, “Health and Fitness,” “Shopping” and “Medical” apps saw strong quarter-over-quarter growth of 30%, 25% and 20%, meanwhile.

With record downloads and usage, consumer spending also grew significantly as a result, particularly among streaming video services.

Image Credits: App Annie

In the second quarter, consumers spent a record $27 billion in apps, up 15% year-over-year to $17 billion on iOS and up 25% to $10 billion on Android.

Games accounted for $19 billion of the spend, up 15% quarter-over-quarter. Google Play saw sizable growth at 25% quarter-over-quarter, which was 2x the growth rate on iOS.

Image Credits: App Annie

Non-gaming apps were 35% of the spend on iOS. The U.S. and China the largest contributors in both games and non-game apps on iOS in the quarter. However, the U.S. notably took back the top position as the largest market for consumer games — a spot previously held by China — with 30% quarter-over-quarter growth in Q2.

Non-games were 15% of the spend on Google Play. The U.S., Japan, and South Korea were the largest markets in both non-games and games alike on Google Play.

Top Google Play categories in addition to “Games” included “Social” and “Entertainment.” Growth in the “Entertainment” category was driven largely by Disney+ and Twitch, App Annie noted.

On iOS, “Entertainment” and “Photo and Video” were the largest categories by consumer spend, in addition to “Games.” Here, TikTok drove growth for the “Photo and Video” category, becoming the No. 1 top-grossing app on iOS App Store globally in Q2 2020 thanks to sales of virtual gifts used to tip streamers.

Image Credits: App Annie

While much of the activity taking place on mobile devices during the pandemic is related to having fun — like watching videos or playing games, for example — several of the top apps in the quarter were work-related.

Zoom, for instance, became the No. 2 of most downloaded app globally in Q2 2020. Google Meet was No. 7.

TikTok, meanwhile, was the top app by downloads and spending, and the No. 7 by monthly active users. That will likely change in the months ahead, due to its ban in India. A proposed U.S. ban has also recently seen TikTok rivals gaining ground. Amid this disruption, local competitors in India have seen increased usage, and elsewhere, competitors like Byte and Likee have surged.

Powered by WPeMatico

Newzoo forecasts 2020 global games industry will reach $159 billion

Posted by | console gaming, coronavirus, COVID-19, Extra Crunch, Gaming, hardware, Market Analysis, Mobile, PC Gaming, playstation, Social, TC, xbox | No Comments

Games and esports analytics firm Newzoo released its highly cited annual report on the size and state of the video gaming industry yesterday. The firm is predicting 2020 global game industry revenue from consumers of $159.3 billion, a 9.3% increase year-over-year. Newzoo predicts the market will surpass $200 billion by the end of 2023.

Importantly, the data excludes in-game advertising revenue (which surged +59% during COVID-19 lockdowns, according to Unity) and the market of gaming digital assets traded between consumers. Advertising within games is a meaningful source of revenue for many mobile gaming companies. In-game ads in just the U.S. drove roughly $3 billion in industry revenue last year, according to eMarketer.

To compare with gaming, the global markets for other media and entertainment formats are:

Counting gamers

Of 7.8 billion people on the planet, 4.2 billion (53.6%) of whom have internet connectivity, 2.69 billion will play video games this year, and Newzoo predicts that number to reach three billion in 2023. It broke down the current geographic distribution of gamers as:

  • 1,447 million (54%) in Asia-Pacific
  • 386 million (14%) in Europe
  • 377 million (14%) in Middle East & Africa
  • 266 million (10%) in Latin America
  • 210 million (8%) in North America

Powered by WPeMatico

Fandango adds new features to highlight health precautions and distancing in movie theaters

Posted by | Apps, coronavirus, COVID-19, Fandango, Health, Media, Mobile, movie theaters | No Comments

As movie theaters reopen across the United States and the world, there are lingering questions about what kinds of measures those theaters will be taking to keep staff and moviegoers safe in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These concerns were illustrated last week, when AMC CEO Adam Aron said in an interview that the theater chain would not be requiring that patrons wear masks except in locations where they’re legally required to do so — because the company “did not want to be drawn into a political controversy.” Naturally, those comments prompted a controversy of their own, leading AMC to reverse its decision.

So it makes sense for NBCUniversal-owned movie ticketing app Fandango to highlight the different safety measures that theaters are taking.

It’s useful from an informational perspective, so that moviegoers understand and prepare for the experience in theaters, and perhaps choose theaters based on how serious they seem about safety. But it’s also a savvy marketing move, as those theaters will need to convince moviegoers that it’s safe to return.

Fandango social distance seating

Image Credits: Fandango

The new features include what Fandango is pitching as a “one-stop shop” to view the safety measures announced by more than 100 theater chains, with information about auditorium occupancy, social distance seating, mask/protective equipment policies, enhanced cleaning measures and special concession arrangements. There will also be instructional videos, social distance seating maps and a way to search for reopened theaters by location.

Because movie theaters have been closed for the past few months, Fandango also says it will be extending for another 60 days expired rewards from its Fandango VIP+ loyalty programs.

“We are working closely with our friends in exhibition to help get their ticketing back online and film fans back in seats with peace of mind,” said Melissa Heller, Fandango’s vice president of domestic ticketing, in a statement. “In addition to our new product features, Fandango’s mobile ticketing will be an added benefit, helping moviegoers and cinema employees reduce the number of contact points at the box office and throughout the theater.”

Update: In response to my question about whether moviegoers should feel safe going back to theaters, the company sent me the following statement from Fandango managing editor Erik Davis:

Let’s face it, there’s nothing like watching a movie on the big screen, and some movies like ‘Tenet’ and ‘Mulan’ beg to be seen on the biggest screen available, so there’s definitely a demand. Moviegoing decisions are personal: which movie, which format, which theater are you going to see it in. And now with health & safety protocols different for each state, county or theater chain, it’s useful to know what the theaters are offering before you go. Fandango is gathering all the info in one place to help fans return to the movies with peace of mind, and at the right time that is best for them.

Powered by WPeMatico

Why the Olympics should add esports

Posted by | astralis, baseball, Column, coronavirus, COVID-19, esports, Gaming, Goldman Sachs, international olympic committee, league of legends, Media, mlb, Olympic Games, olympics, Opinion, Sports, United States, video gaming | No Comments
Brandon Byrne
Contributor

Brandon Byrne is the CEO and co-founder of Opera Event, a technology platform that connects content creators, teams and sponsors to one another programmatically and at scale. He was previously the CFO of Team Liquid and VP of Finance and Administration at Curse.

I recently sat on a panel for gaming website Pocket Gamer that was focused on esports and the Olympics. We were debating whether esports were filling the gap in sporting events, including the Olympic games, which have been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was an interesting conversation that started out like most esports panels. The only difference here is that instead of the typical question, “When will esports catch up to traditional sports?” it was, “Will esports become mainstream enough to make it into the Olympics?” A slightly different question, but the same sentiment: The international games are one of televised sports’ marquee events, and esports companies hope to earn a seat at the grown-up’s table.

In truth, the Olympics have been dropping in ratings relatively steadily in the U.S. for a long time. The only Olympic games that scored in the top five ratings going back to 1992 were the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, presumably because they were held in the United States. Overall, viewership has been declining in recent years and the games don’t hold the prestige they once did.

Additionally, audiences are slowly becoming worth less and less to advertisers because the age of the average viewer is rising rapidly, a trend we are seeing in almost all traditional sports.

I doubt it would surprise anyone to learn that the average age of almost all traditional sports viewership skews older than esports’ audience. Even then, I think the actual data will be quite surprising. Only one professional sport (women’s tennis) actually saw its average viewers age come down in the last decade or so. Even in that context, the average age of a Women’s Tennis Association home spectator is 55 years old.

The average age of esports viewership looks to be around 26 years old. Think about that from a marketer’s perspective. Traditional sports are just missing young people, by a wide margin.

Where are the kids?

But there are more factors at play than just a lack of interest from millennials and Gen Z driving this trend: There’s also a question of access.

The IOC made the decision in recent years to stream the Olympics (the way most younger people consume content), but it capped the ability to watch online to 30 minutes if viewers didn’t sign in with their cable company (a relationship many millennials don’t have) to continue watching.

Additionally, the IOC made the laughable decision to “ban” GIFs with the press covering the event, which qualifies as one of the more stupid things a governing body has ever tried to do. First, it won’t work. Secondly, and more to the point, it demonstrates how out of touch the IOC is with the ways in which media has evolved in the last 20 years.

However, unlike the Olympics, where no corporation owns the rights to volleyball or the pole vault, all esports companies own the IP associated with the game itself. That means, by default, the IOC would not have carte blanche when making decisions about how to represent the games, programming, licensing rights and other factors it has enjoyed for a long time.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the IOC doesn’t like the idea of “violent” games being added to the Olympic roster. It would prefer to see current sports transformed into virtual competitions. But anyone who knows anything about esports understands that this isn’t how esports works. Before a game ascends to esports royalty, it needs to be a good game. If nobody plays it, it’s unlikely anyone will want to watch it.

Secondly, it has be digestible as a viewing experience. World of Warcraft Arena is a game that draws a lot of players, but it’s almost impossible to know what is going on unless you’re an expert at the game or you have a godly shoutcaster who can translate the on-screen action. You can’t make track and field an esport and hope audiences will want to watch.

The IOC Solution

The IOC has taken steps to try and stave off declining youth viewership trends by adopting sports considered “young” in the past few years. Five sports recently added to the Olympic games include:

  • Sport climbing
  • Surfing
  • Skateboarding
  • Karate
  • Baseball/softball

The baseball/softball addition notwithstanding, I think you would have to live under a rock if you thought that competitive sport climbing held a candle to Fortnite or League of Legends in terms of generating youth interest. Frankly, this seems like an idea that came from an old person trying to find a way to “get the kids back.”


To the IOC’s credit, it has begun to hold panels and conferences with esports experts and game publishers, but the deals that will come from these will look REALLY different than what they are used to. It seems to me that we have a long way to go here.

For my part of the panel, I argued that the Olympics need esports much more than esports need the Olympics. Media companies are only going to overpay for broadcasting rights for traditional sports for so long. At some point, someone is going to notice that the “inside the demo” group isn’t there and move on.

The thing that esports CAN get from the Olympics is understanding a better way to monetize its audience, something that the Olympics do well and esports doesn’t do well right now. A report from Goldman Sachs shows the audience size and monetization based on that audience, showing that esports dramatically underindex on monetization relative to their more established sports league equivalents. It is clear that esports is immature from a monetization perspective and, while the Olympics aren’t on this chart, I would assume that it punches WAY above its weight, much like MLB does, trading on its reputation more than on actual results these days.

The IOC should act fast, though. It won’t be long until esports figures this whole thing out and once they do, the Olympic games won’t have anything to offer this emerging media powerhouse.

Powered by WPeMatico