MSI Schedule vs Chinese Viewership

After Royal Never Give Up’s 3-1 victory over Kingzone DragonX in the final series of MSI 2018, the doors close on the tournament for another year. Excitement and buzz surrounded MSI during its 3 week lifespan, as is to be expected with an international event, however many fans have questioned decisions made regarding time and location.

Each MSI and Worlds comes with a different setting than the previous. This time last year, team’s were battling it out in Rio as SKT took the trophy. This year’s location is Europe; Berlin for the group stage and Paris for the knockout rounds.

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Riot’s choice of location for the group stage was the EU LCS studio with a capacity of around 170 fans. This was the first talking point among viewers. Why would an international event be hosted in such a small venue?

With the schedule of the tournament came immediate answers. Many games began near or before midday CEST, and so even local fans working 9-5 jobs had little chance to watch online, let alone attend in person. What came as less of a surprise to some was that this corresponded to around 6pm in China, a much more suitable viewing time for League of Legend’s largest player base.

It’s often said as common knowledge that Chinese viewers account for 90% of all spectators, so let’s see if this is really the case.

According to esc.watch, the average number of viewers for the tournament was 331,210 (not including the Chinese audience of course). However, when including viewers from China, this number skyrockets to more than 21m. In this case, streams outside of China have accounted for less than 2% of the total viewership figures.

An especially staggering number of viewers was recorded for today’s final. A peak of 947,861 fans watched from the rest of the world, while the total viewers including Chinese fans reached a whopping 106,558,578. This works out as 99.1% of viewers in China alone.

There is speculation that some Chinese broadcasters may use view bots on their streams as multiple platforms compete with one another, however there is clearly still a considerable gap between the audience size of the world’s most populated country compared to Esports’ other popular destinations.

This does appear to be the clear reason for Riot’s odd choice of timing during this tournament. Why please a few thousand local fans looking to attend when 99% of your viewers would prefer to watch at an earlier time?

It’s worth baring in mind that Riot is owned by Tencent, a Chinese giant with yearly revenue of around $37bn who have recently invested around $1.1bn into streaming platforms in China. With these recent investments, it would not come as a huge surprise if Tencent may have encouraged Riot to schedule the matches at these earlier times; allowing the enormous audience that they own to watch the enormous game that they own.

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It remains to be seen whether this is a taste of what’s to come moving forward. With Worlds to be held in Korea this year, the schedule is likely to favour the local audience with a minimal 1 hour time difference between Korea and China.

This year’s All-Stars will be held in North America for the second time running, and we can now only wait and see whether the schedule will favour the locals willing to attend the event, or whether Riot will bend the knee for their Chinese viewers. One thing’s for certain, let’s hope it’s not in the NA LCS studio.

Let us know your thoughts on MSI’s schedule by tweeting @NineTeeSix.

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