The IOC will host esports events. Will people tune in?
April 23rd, 2021, Graeme Bruce

The IOC will host esports events. Will people tune in?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced it will organize a handful of esports events prior to the Tokyo Games, marking a significant move toward introducing video games into the Olympics.

New YouGov polling in three key markets shows there is notable interest in what the IOC is calling the Olympic Virtual Series. Of the trio of countries where interviews were conducted, interest in Australia was highest, where 43% of adults say they are extremely, very, or somewhat likely to watch such an event. A third of Americans (33%) and three in ten Brits (30%) indicated interest.

Viewership among current esports fans is likely to be high. Roughly three-quarters of respondents in the United States who are interested in esports say they’re likely to tune into the Olympic-hosted event (76%).

The series includes virtual competitions in baseball, cycling, rowing, sailing, and auto racing. Among these events, Americans likely to watch the series are most likely to watch the baseball event (44%), while Brits are partial to cycling (55%). Australians gravitate toward the only virtual event that isn’t a current Olympic sport auto racing (39%).

“The Olympic Virtual Series is a new, unique Olympic digital experience that aims to grow direct engagement with new audiences in the field of virtual sports,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. “It encourages sports participation and promotes the Olympic values, with a special focus on youth.”

Adults across the three markets are split on whether it’s appropriate for virtual sports to be organized alongside the Olympic games, however younger adults are more likely to vouch for esports. In the United States, 42% of adults say such an event organized around the Olympics is appropriate; that rate shoots up to 58% among those aged 18-39. In Australia, 49% of the general population but 69% of young adults – think the events are appropriate. In Britain, we don’t see a dramatic difference in opinion among young people – 46% of the general population think it’s appropriate while 50% of those 18-39 agree.

As of this writing, it’s unclear if top-performing players will receive medals, but between 29% and 37% of adults in the US, Britain and Australia think top finishers should.

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Methodology: On April 22, 2021, YouGov polled 1,000 UK adults between 1:17 p.m. ET and 2:59 p.m. ET, 1,000 US adults between 1:29 p.m. ET and 2:55 p.m. ET and 500 Australian adults between 8:00 p.m. ET and 9:17 p.m. ET The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. For the overall samples, The margin of error is 5.4% in US, 7.5% in the UK, and 7.5 in Australia. Learn more about YouGov Direct.

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Image: Gran Turismo