This week, Stream Hatchet took a deep dive into collegiate esports. The collegiate sector will grow with ample opportunities, but the fragmented structure will need to be addressed. The mass adoption within pop culture has made awareness easier for collegiate esports but there still exists some obstacles. Regarding viewership, the collegiate space saw incredible growth from 2018 to 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 caused major issues. Students weren’t on campuses, events were cancelled, and transitioning to online formats became challenging for leagues and tournament operators. All of this caused a 44% decline in hours watched last year. But how did viewership decline so much when total collegiate event streams increased 95%? The muffled word-of-mouth marketing on campuses in combination with an influx of streams across all platforms caused by the pandemic meant less awareness and more competition.
The disorganized nature of programs trying to unify the sector is problematic for growth. Companies like PlayVS and Collegiate Star League (CSL) are trying to be the solution. They’re successful but it’s simply not a one-size-fits-all answer. What about the NCAA? The NCAA voted to abstain from esports in April 2019 meaning universities are on their own to form programs. The governing body of the NCAA would help structure the ecosystem but also comes with tricky situations like Title IX and other regulations.
Moving forward, collegiate esports will likely return to its promising trend. Programs continue to create new paths for students looking to get involved, universities are trying to foster a community within the industry, brands are allocating more budget to esports; the list goes on. A unified structure will be necessary if collegiate esports wants to continue to grow.
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