ESPN’S Strong Street Fighter Start | THE NEXT LEVEL 031

Manny Anekal
Jul 20, 2016 · 4 min read
(Photo: Astro. Yes, that’s Not Street Fighter)

My Take: When I first saw Street Fighter on those giant pads in 1987, I was awestruck. I played Guile’s Flash Kick to victory in 1994. To now watch the biggest Street Fighter Tournament being held in Las Vegas and broadcast on ESPN2 is just awesome. Quick recap of what I said in last week’s THE NEXT LEVEL 027:

(Source: The Next Level)

Here’s how Street Fighter performed with the usual qualification of it’s just one datapoint but here are the big takeaways for me:

(Photo: The Next Level)


Sunday’s EVO Championship delivered 201k viewers and 147k in the key 18–49 Advertiser Demographic. I think that’s a strong debut and more evidence of great programming on ESPN’s side.


Just looking at the performance of Mortal Kombat and the EVO Championship, Fighters are off to a good start garnering 2 of the Top 3 spots for Live eSports events. Just as Street Fighter has a storied brand and a long history, the same goes for Mortal Kombat — the first game was released in 1992. I believe you’re going to see more eSports Fighting soon.

/03 18–49 VIEWER %

This is one of the more startling aspects. Almost 3/4 of the total audience fell into the 18–49 Demo. This is amazing considering that traditional sports don’t get close to 73% and this is much greater than E LEAGUES ~50%. I need more data but this is very interesting.


(Photo: The Next Level)

A brief snapshot of a few Sunday Sports events shows how well the EVO Championship performed. It almost equaled an afternoon MLB game while delivering double the 18–49 Demo %.


This is also interesting as it relates to multi-platform programming. The very early Twitch data that I’ve seen is that YoY total Time Watched dropped. I’m also curious to see the Twitch viewership affect once ESPN2 started airing the Finals. I need more data on this and why I’m not including the metrics I have at this point.


(Photo: Red Bull)

Yes that was the main stage at Sunday’s EVO Championship. Sure the setup looked like something at your local VA but I would definitely expect a bump in production value for 2017. Here’s the bigger question — what’s the overall importance of production value to viewership? I asked this directly during my analysis of E LEAGUE’s debut in THE NEXT LEVEL 09. Again, Turner’s production is fantastic and clearly shows their expertise in Sports production and storytelling but I’m not sure if this audience needs a Maybach when a Mitsubishi may work.


(Photo: Geico Gaming)

The EVO 2016 Championship saw long time supporters Red Bull, Astro and Team Razer sponsored Athlete “Infiltration” win the main event. The biggest non-endemic Brand to make a splash was Geico Gaming. I love that Geico has helped support two eSports genre’s that don’t get the headlines: Hearthstone and Fighters. Great strategic move to capture the audience mindshare while activating onsite. Geico is on my list for Top 5 Non-Endemic Brands involved in eSports for 2016.


A huge congrats needs to go out to all those involved in helping grow EVO from small ballrooms to now an arena in Las Vegas. For perspective, the number of participants in EVO has grown a whopping 400% over the last three years:

(Source: The Next Level)

Outside of EVO Japan already being announced, you’re going to see EVO 2017 in the US even bigger. Already looking forward to next year.

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Manny Anekal

Written by

esports. Founder and CEO: The Next Level (Media), Versus Sports (Team), and Versus Consulting. Podcast →

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