On December 28th at 8:00 pm, the Madden Challenge aired on the CW network. The first Madden Challenge to air on the CW earned the highest ratings for all eSports programs in 2017.

It’s bad news for other eSports programs such as Rocket League, which airs nearly all year round, and given the competition aired with only a couple of days left in 2017, CW’s presentation of the EA Sports Madden Challenge literally stole the show. It helps to have competitors that young viewers can identify with, too.

Drini Gjoka won the EA Sports Madden Challenge and brought home $35,000 plus the prized championship title belt. The program followed the eight finalists taking part in the Challenge, and it documented their journey through the tournament.

Honestly, it was pretty good reality based television, especially if you’re a competitive sports gamer or Madden video game enthusiast. The CW did a great job giving the participants an equal amount of camera time in order for fans to get to know the players a little bit.

Of the eight competitors, seven of them were age 20 or younger, and this year’s Madden Challenge winner, Drini Gjoka, is a very young 18-years-old, and is barely out of high school. Clearly, young people are playing competitive video games, and they’re taking it very seriously, same as Drini.  

2018 Madden Challenge winner
2018 Madden Challenge Champion Drini Gjoka. Image Credit EA Sports

The popularity of eSports is exploding among millennials, and Madden 18 seems to be one of the most popular games for watching on television, or other outlets. Some industry experts believe this might be due to the simplistic nature of the Madden video game. It’s basically like watching our beloved football on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but the video game is much easier to follow, especially for those who don’t understand the sport as thoroughly as others.

According to a recent Rolling Stone article, several youth league and high school football coaches from around the country have openly admitted to using the Madden NFL games as a tool for teaching their players about playing the sport of football.

From strategy to play-calling to basic football concepts, Madden has become a valuable coaching tool. It’s obviously one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, but it’s hard to believe that one network special centered around a Madden Challenge tournament could beat all of the other top eSports programs in the TV ratings.  

Nielson Esports TV Ratings Chart for 2017

One explanation could be that the EA Madden Challenge was timed out beautifully by the CW network..They aired this special in a primetime spot, at 8 pm, on the national CW network, and it aired just a few days after Christmas and before New Years. That’s a great time to attract young viewers given it is the time of year when its coldest outside and most eSports fans and viewers are on a holiday break.

It’s certainly great news for the future of Madden NFL eSports competitions. With such a strong trial run, so to speak, the competition’s organizers and network directors will undoubtedly continue to air not only the Madden competitions, but other sports gaming events as well.

Be sure to read about Drini’s dominant 37 point second half performance to secure his first tournament victory over “Young Kiv” in the Madden Challenge final match.

SGO is your number one source for the latest Madden 18 tips, news and expert analysis. 

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Matthew Sherdan is a web content writer and journalist who lives in beautiful Asheville, NC. He earned his BA in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (Go Seahawks!) where he developed his passion for content marketing and web journalism. He loves writing about and competitively playing the Madden franchise. Matthew’s a flat out sports junkie, sports trivia nerd, and he just can’t seem to get enough NFL in his life. Matthew’s dream is to someday cover an NFL team, or the just the NFL itself, in some capacity.