NBC has been encouraged by the tournament's early reception


NBC has been encouraged by the tournament's early reception

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The parents may not get it, but NBC sees huge potential in the esports business, which market researcher Newzoo estimates could grow to $1.5 billion in revenue by 2020. "The growth has really accelerated here in the States over the last five years after really starting out in Asia and Europe," said Rob Simmelkjaer, senior vice president of NBC Sports Ventures. "Not only has it caught on, but it's caught on among young fans, the young teens and twentysomethings — males — who are challenging sometimes to reach from a media company standpoint."

NBC has been encouraged by the tournament's early reception, particularly in Chicago, where 583 two-person teams registered for the tournament, nearly 200 more entrants than the next closest local qualifier in San Francisco. Overall, 2,500 teams signed up, and the first weekend of play peaked at 50,000 concurrent viewers on popular video game platform Twitch.On that point, NBC and CSN will be more interested in the streaming numbers than traditional TV ratings, Simmelkjaer said. "I think it's fair to say linear TV ratings are not our first priority. We know that, No. 1, a lot of these core fans of these games, of esports, are not heavy TV viewers."

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