How long will it really take for eSports to rival real sports?

Major League Gaming CEO Sundance Giovanni revealed the scale of his ambitions to PC Gamer yesterday: “I see eSports rivaling the UFC within 5 years. There’s no reason that we can’t rival even the NFL eventually, we just need to continue to evolve.” 

That’s quite a claim, and of course businessmen have been known to set hyperbolic goals, but let’s actually break it down to see just how much MLG would have to grow to rival the UFC or, gulp, the NFL.

One of the most-watched MLG events of the past year was the Championship Sunday competition in Anaheim, which drew 2.2 million online viewers over the course of the day, with a peak concurrent viewership of 437,000. The most watched UFC event ever was a 2011 fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, which drew a ratings peak of 8.8 million viewers. That makes the fight twenty times larger in peak viewership than the MLG event. Last year’s Super Bowl drew a ratings peak of 117 million viewers. That makes the football game 268 times larger than the MLG event.

So, assuming that peak viewership grows at the 334% rate claimed by Giovanni in the article, and that both the UFC and the NFL remain static, which are both huge assumpotions. It would take five years, as Giovanni claims, for the MLG to have an event on the scale of the UFC, and 67 years for the biggest MLG event to rival the Super Bowl.