With the absence of in-person sports during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, esports was given a unique opportunity to increase their fanbase and viewership.
Twitch, the leading streaming website, reported in 2019 1.5 million people were watching at any given time. The site now reports viewership is up by 60 percent, with over five billion hours watched between April and June of this year.
The NBA 2K League is one of the channels that has benefited from the rise in interest. In June, the league gained four new sponsors in Tissot, Jostens, SAP and GameStop, bringing the total to 13. The increase in sponsorship has helped to raise the prize pool for the 2020 season to $1.4 million. The league also signed a deal with ESPN2 to broadcast games.
Hawks Talon GC shooting guard Derrion Elmore, better known by his screen name “Arkele”, talked to the Gwinnett Daily Post about how he thinks the exposure is helping build the future of esports.
“We didn't have the ESPN platform that we do now and having that a couple days out of the week is very encouraging to a lot of kids,” he said. “When I was getting drafted, my mom was getting texts from her friend’s kids saying ‘how is he doing that?’ ‘I want to do that.’ I think that being on ESPN and having the draft broadcast on Twitch, took advantage of what is going on in the world right now. It is beautiful and I am happy with how we were able to capitalize on this problem.”
He also mentioned that he will be surprised if the exposure of esports does not continue after this season.
The Hawks Talon lost Wednesday night 2-1 in a three-game series against the Boston Celtics Crossover Gaming who acquired point guard Sheriff Cruz “FT” earlier that day. The loss brought the Talon’s record to 6-9 on the season leaving them ranked 15th out of 23 teams.
The NBA 2K League’s simulcast on Wednesday earned over 300,000 unique viewers across Twitch and YouTube.
Atlanta head coach Wesley Acuff said he was disappointed with his team’s defense and made the comment that they “gave up too many points” to FT, who contributed 50 of his team's 77 points in the final game.
Hawks Talon GC has plenty of talent on the roster. “Arkele” is currently ranked sixth in the league in 3-point percentage, making 67 percent of his shots. On Tuesday, he sat at No. 1. Lee Lamb “Lee” is still ranked first in field goal percentage with 77 percent of shots made.
“Sometimes you play teams that are just a little bit better than us on any given game day," Acuff said. "I think sometimes we get in our own way, taking, you know, a few bad shots or we make a couple wrong reads or a couple of wrong decisions that affect the outcome of the game.
“I think it really just boils down to luck, and we have to do a better job in those areas.”
Atlanta will face off against Miami’s Heat Check Gaming on Friday before heading to THE TICKET tournament, a 14-team battle for the final spot in the 10-team playoffs.