Date of Award

Spring 4-21-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)



First Advisor

Dr. Danny Bellenger

Second Advisor

Dr. Naveen Donthu

Third Advisor

Dr. Wesley Johnston



Multi-player gameplay competitions, live streaming of gameplay, and viewing gameplay are significant segments of esports’ rapidly growing consumer online gaming community. In 2021, the esports industry was forecast to generate over $1 billion USD worldwide in revenue (Esports Earnings, 2019)., the largest esports online platform, integrates multiple user-to-player, user-to-user, and user-to-community communication tools, thus creating social interaction opportunities. This study explored online or digital esports viewership activity and the importance of community interaction opportunities on the digital platform.

For the purpose of this study, a broad definition of esports viewership and community participation is used because esports roles may easily change during a single user’s session on esports platforms. A competitor in a tournament may easily and quickly become a streamer of content. An esports streamer may become the viewer of a tournament, or a viewer may become a streamer. The platform usage data for analysis is limited and does not distinguish between the user’s role or geographic location. This is a known limitation of this research. There are few rigorous statistical examinations of English-language esports platform data in the current literature beyond the presentation of histograms in trade media, especially on how esports platform viewership changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study seeks to inform reviewers on changes in esports viewership and participation before-, during-, and after- the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders, public health advisory and social restrictions in 2020 using academic methods. It draws on social identity theory and habit theory to explain the motivation for changes in consumer esports viewership trends.

This mixed-methods study analyzes esports viewership on the largest platform,, based on peak viewership accessed in the English language. According to Streamlabs’ Q1 2021 Report, leads the global market with live stream viewers in 4Q 2020 and 1Q 2021, of 6.34 billion hours, representing 72.3% of the market share of esports hours viewed. This study defines pre-COVID as October 2019-February 2020, during- as March-July 2020, and post- as August to December 2020, see Figures 7 and 8 for additional details (CDC, 2021). This study includes a quantitative analysis of peak platform viewership data and qualitative interviews with active esports viewers during the same period.

Whether you are a game designer, platform creator, marketing, or media executive, this study documents the continued growth of as an important go-to platform and medium for entertainment and social interactions, as demonstrated by its popularity among people isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

This engaged scholarship study documents, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the change in esports content viewership resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This may signal a significant change in consumer media consumption behavior and media expectations where consumers seek integrated entertainment and community interactions.


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May 31 2022

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