NEW YORK: Awareness of e-sports is rising rapidly – more than 1bn people globally know something about it, according to new research – driven in part by the launch of leagues such as Eleague, the first to appear on primetime television.

Due to start May 24, Eleague, created by WME/IMG and Turner, has attracted sponsors, including Arby's, Credit Karma and Buffalo Wild Wings, seeking to reach an audience of young male fans, Advertising Age reported.

For Turner, it's a way of lowering the average age of its viewers; Nielsen data indicates that more than half of American e-sports fans are aged 18 to 34 and more than three quarters are male.

And, in an attempt to retain their attention for advertisers such as Sony Pictures, it is reducing ad time from ten minutes per hour to eight.

The sponsors regard their involvement as extensions of what they are already doing. Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, seeks to appeal to fans across all sports, while for Arby's it's a development of an existing social media campaign where they discovered that gaming resonates with their followers.

According to Newzoo, a gaming intelligence business, there are some 148m e-sports enthusiasts regularly watching around the world, a 29% increase on the 2015 figure, and a further 144m occasional viewers who watch less than once a month; in total more than 1bn people globally are aware of e-sports.

It attributed this to the increased involvement of mainstream media and broadcasters, the efforts of publishers to build their e-sports business and the "explosive growth" in leagues and events organized on a global, regional and local scale; university leagues, it added, are leading the way in creating offline local competitions.

China accounted for 28% of total global awareness of e-sports in Newzoo's survey, followed by Europe (22%) and North America (15%).

Data sourced from Advertising Age, Newzoo; additional content by Warc staff