IEM Katowice 2021 ended on the last day of February. One of the most prestigious tournaments in CS:GO history was marked with triumph of CIS. Gambit Esports became the champions and three out of four teams in semifinals represented the Russian-speaking region. However, the audience statistics may disappoint someone: the final of the event turned out to be the least popular in five years.
IEM Katowice 2021 is far from being the most popular tournament in the series
The unexpected success of the underdogs didn’t benefit the event’s statistics. IEM Katowice isn’t even the most popular CS:GO event of 2021, as it showed worse stats than BLAST Premier Global Final, which ended at the end of January. Interestingly, last year the excitement around IEM Katowice was greater than ever: the event at its peak gathered over a million viewers and became the most popular non-major event in the history of the discipline.
Popular European and American organizations had poor results at IEM Katowice 2021. Perhaps only Team Liquid can be praised a bit as it slowly but surely improves its performance after FalleN signing.
The format of IEM Katowice changed in 2021 as the Play-In stage was added: it increased the number of participants from 16 to 24. This also affected the total airtime of the event: compared to last year it grew by almost 38%, but the amount of hours watched increased by only 10%.
Over a longer time frame, IEM Katowice 2021 showed a positive trend: the increase in hours watched was more significant than between 2017 and 2018. The 2019 Major remains unmatched, as it significantly outperformed the rest of the tournaments in series by all parameters.
Lack of popular teams in the final affected the number of peak viewers: it decreased by 41% compared to last year. Previously, all the events of the IEM Katowice series gathered the maximum number of spectators during finals, but the peak was reached during the group stage (NAVI vs Liquid match) in 2021, and the grand final between Gambit and Virtus.pro became only the fourth most popular game of the tournament.
Statistics by languages
Out of popular western teams only Team Liquid reached the semifinals: for example, Natus Vincere and Astralis left the tournament after the first round of the playoffs while other teams didn’t even pass the group stage. As a result, English-speaking broadcasts have lost the absolute majority by total hours watched, amounting to only 42.8%. For comparison, last year this figure was over 53%.
But compared to last year's tournament, the share of Portuguese-speaking viewers significantly increased, amounting to 24.19%: at IEM Katowice 2020 its share was only 8.13%. The reason for growth is that the championship was casted by the streamer Gaules, and the Brazilian teams had teams to root for: after all, the legend of the local scene FalleN plays in Team Liquid, and the Brazilians are also actively follow NAVI and compatriots from FURIA Esports.
The share of the Russian language slightly decreased amounting to 23.56% of the total. It is noteworthy that the CIS viewers were extremely selective in the choice of teams: NAVI became the most popular by a large margin, although three other teams from the region reached the semifinals.
The strength of the NAVI brand in the CIS means a lot. The team's match against Liquid in the group stage gathered more than 185K CIS spectators, while VP's decisive game with FURIA did not even gather 30K Russian-speaking fans.
Most popular matches
Underdogs may surprise, but they don’t bring a lot of viewers to the broadcast as the wide audience is still primarily interested in the well-established European teams. Too many eminent teams did not even get to the playoffs of IEM Katowice 2021: Fnatic, Cloud9, OG, NiP, EG, FaZe, Vitality to name a few.
Only one out of five most popular matches scored over 500K peak viewers: it was the game between NAVI and Liquid in the group stage (more than 596K spectators). This game was the most popular among English-speaking, Russian-speaking and Portuguese-speaking spectators.
The final between Virtus.pro and Gambit Esports turned out to be the least popular among last finals of IEM Katowice: only 417K peak viewers. The result would definitely be different if either NAVI, Liquid or Astralis made it to the final as their matches bypassed the final by number of peak viewers.
At first glance, the statistics are depressing. However, one needs to remember that this is the first ever IEM Katowice to be held online which also greatly affects the viewer's interest. Last year, the championship didn’t have a live audience, but it was still held at the Spodek Arena in Poland.
Most popular teams
Viewers' preferences didn’t change. NAVI is still the most popular CS:GO team in the world; more than 310K spectators on average watched the matches of the s1mple’s at IEM Katowice 2021. Two more teams overcame the 200K mark: Team Liquid (268K average viewers) and Astralis (236K). Interestingly, the champions from Gambit Esports did not even make it to the top 5 by the metric.
Three CIS teams in semifinals of the tier-1 tournament is an overwhelming success for the region, which will certainly help it in the long term. The teams attracted the attention of not only fans, but also tournament operators, which means they will probably receive more invites to next tournaments. However, the results of IEM Katowice 2021 hardly encouraged a wide range of spectators and the organizers themselves: the lack of popular Western organizations scared off part of the audience: VP, Gambit, and Spirit still have to prove their strength at tier-1 level in the long term in order to attract the attention of NAVI and European teams’ fans.