More than any other type of sport, eSports
has exploded in popularity. Since eSports were recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 2017, the sport has only gotten bigger. In addition to growing viewership, it has also been recognized by major broadcasting networks and the world’s biggest tech companies (Amazon, Google, and Facebook).
In eSports, professionally-trained players compete against each other in a variety of games and genres. They include everything from first-person shooters like Overwatch
and Call of Duty
, to MOBAs
like League of Legends
and Dota 2
, to fighting games like Street Fighter
and Super Smash Bros
With so many options, you may be wondering where and how to watch the latest eSports action. Fortunately, there are many options for eSports streaming on a desktop computer
, laptop, television, or mobile device. In this article, we’ll outline where and how to watch eSports on your preferred device, as well as the top games on each one.
Best ways to watch eSports streaming
eSports streaming is a huge business with estimates
showing more than 600 million viewers worldwide by 2023. The three biggest services used today are Amazon's Twitch, Facebook Gaming, and Google's YouTube Gaming. It's no surprise that the three big tech companies are part of the action, as game streaming provides a healthy slice of revenue for these companies due to the billions of hours of games streamed per year.
is the biggest of all eSports streaming services. Initially launched as an independent company, it’s now owned by Amazon and it sees continued growth in viewership, particularly in 2020
Due to its influence on the game streaming industry in general, Twitch launched an eSports directory
that allows eSports fans to keep up on the latest tournaments. Using this directory, you can see which of your favorite games, such as Fortnite
, or Rocket League
, are currently hosting live tournaments. These tournaments, known as Twitch Rivals, pit the pros against their favorite streamers, and you can watch as your favorite players participate in these matches.
Using these tools, streamers and pros can organize their own tournaments for viewers to enjoy. On top of this, many companies host their own eSports tournaments on Twitch, although not always exclusively. eSports matches from Blizzard's Overwatch League and the annual Evo fighting game series, among others, are regulars on the platform.
2. YouTube Gaming
Aside from Twitch, YouTube Gaming
has had the biggest impact among streamers and eSports fans alike. Google made a big bet on eSports in early 2020 by signing an exclusivity deal with Activision-Blizzard
to stream the Call of Duty
League, the Overwatch
League, and competitive Hearthstone
. Prior to this deal, Twitch was the place to go for these eSports competitions, so this is a potentially big boon for YouTube Gaming as these leagues get underway.
According to Nielsen ratings
, the Overwatch
League attracted a global audience of 313,000 viewers per minute, making it one of these largest eSports leagues around. Unlike traditional sports, eSports are primarily viewed post-game as opposed to live.
These eSports matches are uploaded to YouTube after the live broadcast, and typically garner millions of views there. This makes post-match viewing a natural evolution of eSports, and helps fans easily keep track of some of the largest tournaments in the industry.
3. Facebook Gaming
Facebook began making inroads in the eSports community with the launch of Facebook Gaming
in 2018. The service began gaining steam with exclusive signings, including prominent streamer Disguised Toast in late 2019
, but it also created a comprehensive eSports platform for Facebook users to enjoy rounds of Call of Duty: Warzone
and Among Us
Known as Tournaments
, the feature allows amateur eSports players to create and run their own tournaments. Through the power of Facebook events, streamers can invite their Facebook friends and eSports gaming groups to view or engage in the games.
The level of play may not be as high on Facebook Tournaments as on Twitch, simply because it’s not as popular as Twitch. However, there’s still an opportunity to see some great action and get to know your favorite streamers better. In the highly competitive and saturated world of eSports, that certainly counts for a lot.
How to watch eSports on TV
While eSports streaming typically happens online, there are also many opportunities to watch eSports on TV. If that is your preference, there are several channels that are known for streaming eSports, mainly ESPN, BBC, and TBS.
While you can't expect to see regular eSports streams on these channels, they have hosted some of the biggest eSports tournaments to date, with professional coverage to go along with it. If you would prefer to watch eSports on TV, here are the best places to do so.
1. ESPN 2 and Disney XD
Disney-owned ESPN2 was the first TV channel to broadcast eSports. In 2017, ESPN2 partnered with the EVO fighting game series to broadcast the Street Fighter V Grand Finals to its viewers. This proved to be so popular that Disney began streaming the Street Fighter V Grand Finals on Disney XD, a channel typically centered on entertainment for young children.
The BBC has long been committed to a robust coverage of eSports, with a particular focus on MOBAs such as League of Legends and Dota 2. In fact, the British broadcaster is home to the UK League Championship (UKLC) and the Northern League of Legends Championship (NLC).
The UKLC features the top League of Legends players in the United Kingdom and Ireland, while the NLC broadens the scope a bit and adds players from across Northern Europe including those from Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
Although this may be of more interest to European eSports fans, these tournaments represent a broad partnership between League of Legends
developer Riot Games and the BBC. For MOBA fans who prefer to watch eSports on TV, the BBC
is a great place to tune in for some of the best coverage.
AT&T-owned Warner Media is a relatively new name to eSports broadcasting. And through its TBS channel, the company founded its own eSports league called ELEAGUE
. Broadcast as a TV show with individual seasons, ELEAGUE is home to a variety of games including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
, Street Fighter V
, and Rocket League
Unlike many other eSports organizations, players are not locked into exclusive contracts with ELEAGUE. This means they’re free to broadcast simultaneously online through platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming. ELEAGUE itself also created a lot of content through these online platforms that is not exclusively on TBS. This makes it more of a hybrid-style platform, which also allows viewers to see their favorite players anywhere, whether it’s on a traditional TV broadcast or their preferred streaming site.
With more content moving to the web, eSports is poised to expand its reach even more. Streaming is becoming a bigger part of the greater entertainment industry, and eSports pros, streaming personalities, and fans all stand to benefit from the increased exposure of eSports to the public.
Many celebrities including actor Will Smith, rapper Drake, basketball legend Michael Jordan, and others have invested in eSports as well, since they all believe in the longevity and enduring popularity of the medium.
It’s all part of the future of entertainment, as increasing numbers of eSports fans flock to coverage of eSports on platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming as well as traditional broadcast channels like ESPN2 and the BBC. The sky is the limit for eSports, and luckily for its fans, you can get in on the action just about anywhere.