A new YouGov report has confirmed what already seemed to be the case – awareness of esports in the UK is low compared to other territories.
While 35% of British adults (18.3 million people) are aware of esports, just 7% (3.6m) have actually watched it.
This means that one fifth of those aware of esports in the UK watch it. In other words, the vast majority of Brits who know what esports is (80%) aren’t interested in actually watching it.
And around half of those who have watched esports in the UK (43%) aren’t interested in watching it again.
These numbers tally up with similar data on UK esports from Newzoo last year and confirm that interest isn’t as high in the UK as it is in other territories.
Countries like Spain have more followers of their national League of Legends league than the UK does for its leagues, for example. And just yesterday evening, Excel Esports co-founder Kieran Holmes-Darby said in an Esports Insider panel discussion there’s more demand for esports apparel in other European countries outside of the UK.
It’s worth noting, however, that this new YouGov data is based on a UK sample size of 2,087 adults, in order to provide an estimation of the UK population’s feelings. It’s sweeping, and if you were to actually sample the entire population, the data could of course be very different.
Market research agency YouGov also conducted research in the US, Singapore, China, Germany and Australia, with a total of 9,473 adults surveyed, including the 2,000 questioned in the UK. The research was conducted online in August and September 2017.
The research shows that Britain lags behind all of these markets when it comes to esports viewership.
The YouGov report states that ‘more needs to be done to raise awareness [of esports] in the UK’ and that those aware of esports ‘need to be converted into viewers’.
Chris Polechonski, researcher at YouGov, said: “While this research shows that esports is still very much a minority pursuit in this country, there is a sizable chunk of the population that the industry can use as a base from which to grow.
“While this research shows that esports is still very much a minority pursuit in this country, there is a sizable chunk of the population that the industry can use as a base from which to grow.”
Chris Polechonski, YouGov
“A solid proportion of existing spectators are reasonably enthusiastic about watching again and the scale of viewership in China and the US show how it could develop in this country in the coming years if certain barriers can be broken down.”
Of course, the findings show that it’s the younger generation who are most interested in esports. More than 70% of esports viewers are from the 18-34 year old demographic.
Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a sport?
The ‘is esports an actual sport’ debate continues, and YouGov says this is a barrier to esports truly entering the mainstream in the UK.
“One such barrier to esports entering the mainstream is the perception that it does not deserve the same recognition as traditional sports,” YouGov said in a statement.
YouGov’s data shows that 10% of British adults that say it constitutes a ‘real sport’ compared to close to 59% who believe it does not (31% don’t know).
However, appreciation is higher among those who have watched competitive video gaming, with 42% of previous viewers believing it is a ‘real sport’ (51% say it isn’t).
Those who have watched competitive video gaming are three times as likely as the population as a whole to believe esports players are athletes (20% vs 6%). Additionally, they are around three times as likely to think that esports will become as popular as traditional sports (44% vs. 15%).
YouGov’s Chris Polechonski added: “Even those that review the sport in positive terms are unlikely to see competitive video gaming replacing traditional pastimes, so the onus is on the esports to industry to allow it to work alongside familiar favourites.
“Persuading doubters of the sporting merits is a big hurdle as the majority of people do not currently regard esports as ‘real sport’.
“However, our research suggests that when people do get round to watching competitive video gaming, their attitudes soften.”
You can check out the full YouGov report on UK esports here
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.