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Nielsen made its name measuring the TV and media business, making it measurable for advertising. Now it is announcing Nielsen Esports, a new business focused on competitive gaming.

The esports industry is expected to generate $696 million in 2017 (according to market researcher Newzoo), but that is far smaller than traditional sports. One of the big differences between esports and traditional sports is broadcast revenues. And one of the keys to boosting broadcast revenues is measuring the reach of the broadcast properly, said Greg Richardson, CEO of esports Team Dignitas (owned by the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team), in an interview with GamesBeat. Nielsen’s entry into this business is part of the quest for esports to reach greater legitimacy and higher revenues.

New York-based Nielsen will provide sponsorship valuation, fan insights, custom industry research and consulting services to rights holders, media platforms and brands around the world that are moving the esports market. (Nielsen hasn’t yet issued its own forecast for esports revenues).

Esports is growing fast, as evidenced by last weekend’s Seattle tournament, where Valve awarded a total of $24 million to the winning teams that participated in The International Dota 2 Championships. Nielsen Esports found that nearly one in three esports fans is new to following it during the past year.

“There’s a high demand for reliable, independent measurement of value in esports,” said Howard Appelbaum, president of Nielsen Entertainment, in a statement. “We’re excited to enhance our client offerings and provide the industry with solutions that will help guide and optimize investment decisions in this exciting, growing space.”

Nielsen developed Esport24, a syndicated sponsorship tracking service for esports tournaments. The service measures brand exposure in esports tournaments representing a variety of titles, event formats and geographic locations based on the same methodology that allows traditional sports rights holders and brands to quantify value and benchmark performance.

Nielsen also found in a study (on behalf of Astralis, a professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team) showed that sponsor Audi received more than a 10 times return on sponsorship exposure during the Eleague Finals and DreamHack Las Vegas tournaments last year. Broadcast exposure was the primary driver of value for Audi, but nearly 40 percent of the return was driven by non-broadcast exposure, including mentions on social and digital platforms.

The company set up an advisory board that includes representatives from ESL, ESPN, Facebook, FIFA, Major League Gaming/Activision Blizzard, NBA 2K League, The Next Level, Sony PlayStation, Turner, Twitch, Twitter, Unilever, and Google’s YouTube.

“The global, digital and young nature of esports fan base audience represents advertising’s most highly sought after segment, yet consistent and high quality data has been a challenge to measure and define,” said Craig Levine, CEO of ESL North America, in a statement. “As ESL has been pioneering esports for the past 15 years, we have witnessed the incredible growth and enthusiasm of our audience. We’re excited to partner with Nielsen and other industry leaders to guide the framework to measure esports sponsorships, shape the industry, and help further accelerate the esports industry overall.”

Stephen Master and Nicole Park will co-lead Nielsen Esports.


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