NEW YORK: Although e-sports account for just a fraction of the $100bn video game industry, an increasing number of major brands are allocating part of their advertising budgets to the scene.

According to Dutch research firm Newzoo, around 115m people worldwide watched e-sports online or in person at least once a month in 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported.

That was double the number of global enthusiasts since 2012 and Newzoo expects the number to grow to 215m by 2019, and there is mounting interest from brands.

Arby's Restaurant Group, for example, will be one of three initial sponsors when Time Warner's TBS starts broadcasting video game competitions this Friday.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the global brewing group, also plans to promote Bud Light at tournaments this year, while insurance firm Geico is sponsoring two professional teams and expects to organise half a dozen competitions this year.

Although still in its infancy, e-sports is also attracting the interests of social media giants, such as Facebook, which announced earlier this month that it is teaming up with Activision Blizzard, one of the largest players in the video-gaming world.

The agreement opens the way for Activision Blizzard to send live coverage of the Major League Gaming Anaheim Open tournament to Facebook, Variety reported.

And there are longer term plans for Activision Blizzard to stream daily live video content onto MLG's Facebook page, which will include extra content for fans, such as highlights, interviews and stats.

"E-sports is an exciting space and continues to be a growing priority for us," said Dan Reed, head of global sports partnerships at Facebook.

"With over 1.6bn people on the platform and a growing suite of VOD and live-streaming products that partners can use to increase engagement, Facebook is uniquely positioned to help e-sports fans connect around exciting moments and great e-sports content."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, Variety; additional content by Warc staff