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fuboTV CEO Says He Was Surprised E-Sports Didn’t Take Off Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Stephanie Sengwe

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down and people were forced to stay at home back in March, most households flocked to their TVs. This was evident as SVODs such as Netflix and Disney+ saw a significant boom in their subscriber numbers and tech companies such as Zoom became a staple.

With the entire country pivoting and adapting to new ways of doing things, it came as quite a shock to fuboTV co-founder and CEO David Gandler that e-sports didn’t see the same uptick. With most live sports shut down mid-season, it would have made sense for sports fans to gravitate towards e-sports as their favorite players were available on various platforms. However, that idea just didn’t stick.

“One thing that really surprised me coming out of the pandemic was the fact that e-sports didn’t take off,” Gandler stated during the OTT Leaders Day panel for Fierce Video’s OTT Blitz Week. “[With sports not available], I suspected that leveraging famous players and having them play all these games that we’re all familiar with — that drive significant usage and sales —I would have suspected that would have taken off from a viewing perspective. In our numbers, it didn’t move either and that to me was the biggest surprise as it relates to sports.”

Nonetheless, with most leagues coming back under strict health stipulations, Gandler believes the traffic is about to disperse from SVODs and back to live sports. “One of the things that most analysts talked about from the first quarter was that no one saw the transition from cable to vMVPDs. The reason you didn’t see that transition was because there were no sports,” he explained.

“So, if you’re a consumer, why are you going to sign up for a service that’s more expensive than Netflix or Disney+ or some of the other services out there. It just didn’t make sense. The SVOD services have taken advantage of the fact that there were no sports so you’ve seen the impact on subscriber numbers. Going into the third quarter, that narrative changes … We’ve seen pretty good numbers even on the soccer side for some of the smaller leagues that we didn’t anticipate.”

Just last week, fuboTV revealed MLB Network and MLB Network Strike Zone are now available to stream on the platform. The addition was announced back in March but was delayed due to the pandemic.

With the shutdown of PlayStation Vue and Sling TV’s loss of NFL Network, fuboTV is now the only service that carries NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NHL Network, MLB Network and NBA TV.

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