No fans, no problem: Sports leagues could partner with Fortnite to host events

I’ll admit: The title of this article is catchy, but it’s not completely accurate. No fans is a problem. Sports leagues around the world, just like many other businesses, are scrambling to maintain revenue despite continuing concerns with COVID-19.

Stadium/arena revenue is one of the main revenue sources for sports leagues. If fans are not allowed to attend games (or, if attendance is limited to 25 percent capacity), leagues will absolutely feel a blow. Some reports suggest the NFL would lose upwards of $5.5 billion,[1] while the MLB’s Commissioner Manfred suggested his league could lose approximately $4 billion.[2]

With less revenue, that means a lower salary cap in leagues like the NFL and NBA. In turn, this could possibly result in there being less money for players. Unions and leagues will likely have to do some negotiating on how salary caps will work for 2021, but as of now, it’s a problem.

Insert: Fortnite.

Epic Games’s massively-popular battle royale has been on the forefront of creatively intertwining video games with the entertainment industry. In February 2019, Fortnite hosted a live concert featuring EDM artist Marshmello that drew in nearly 11 million viewers.[3]

Fortnite’s most popular concert featured rapper Travis Scott and drew in more than 12 million viewers.[4] The concerts, which can be seen below, allow Fortnite players to virtually attend live events hosted by artists. Players control their avatar, dance, listen to the music, and can chat with friends without having to shout -- all in the comfort of their underwear if they so wish.[5]

Fortnite players can buy in-game customizable gear for their avatars, among other purchases.[6] Although it is unknown how much money Scott and Fortnite made off the rapper’s April concert, Scott’s Spotify views rose by 25 percent (with some tracks as high as 50 percent) before the concert.[7] Fornite’s most recent concert featured Diplo and Major Lazer in early May.[8]

Along with its concerts, Fortnite has also hosted an event with Star Wars’s J.J. Abrams surrounding the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and a movie trailer of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. [9] Fortnite has recently launched a new social space called “Party Royale” dedicated to such events and has plans to air Nolan movies such as Inception, Batman Begins, and The Prestige June 26.[10]

With Fortnite’s new social space, Epic Games and sports leagues could form a valuable partnership for both sides. With a second wave of COVID-19 hitting the country, it’s unknown how long it will be before fans can attend sports events. Moreso, it’s uncertain how long it will be until stadiums are full again and most people feel comfortable being in large crowds.

Safe, virtual spaces may be the most effective way for individuals to remain involved, be entertained, and feel a sense of camaraderie with one another. Teenagers who have attended Fortnite concerts mentioned the joy of meeting new people and socializing with friends. [11]

Fortnite’s social space is like Zoom happy hour on steroids. Granted, you can’t actually see other participants’ faces on Fortnite, but you can see their fully-customized avatars. Friends and family can socialize and “dance” while listening to music, watching a movie, or -- even -- watch a sporting event?

Yes, sports leagues partnering with Fortnite could provide added revenue that could help alleviate the hole left by empty stadiums and arenas. Picture this: The NFL/NBA/MLB could partner with Fortnite to have games broadcast on the video game (bury the broadcasting rights issue for a moment). Fortnite’s 350 million users[12] could watch the game, make in-game purchases to represent their favorite teams, and buy other gear.

Players could watch the game, interact with others, and socialize with friends in a safe, COVID-19-free space. Think of it as “virtually going to the ballpark,” but in reality, you’re just at home. A partnership with Fortnite would offer access to a young demographic -- a demographic particularly important to the NFL and MLB.

While the NBA’s fan base tends to be young, the NFL and MLB attract an older fan base.[13] Reaching out to a young platform such as Fortnite could be valuable for leagues, not just now, but also in the future.

The partnership is not without its share of hurdles, though. First and foremost: Would those with broadcasting rights -- CBS, Fox, NBC, TBS, ESPN, etc. -- be willing to share the rights to a game (or a few games)? Fortnite could offer to pay for the rights, or the company with the rights may be willing to do a three-party partnership between the league, company, and Fortnite.

Regardless, the broadcasting rights are a hurdle that would need to be handled. If broadcast rights aren’t attainable, the sports leagues could still have a more interactive, event-based partnership with Fornite that is not an actual viewing of a game. Consider what Star Wars did here:

The second potential issue with this partnership is the length of time a sporting event takes. Most Fortnite events so far have been short -- 10 to 15 minutes -- although with Fornite’s new dedicated “Party Royale” map, timing may not be as big of an issue. More information about the timing question will be available after Nolan’s movie series June 26.

Given these unique times, sports leagues and teams should be considering all avenues to raise revenue. Jumping into the video game industry may just be a new, creative way for leagues to not only raise some revenue, but also to reach out to a new demographic and build a sense of camaraderie among fans.

Fortnite developers (who are much more creative than me) could likely create a really engaging product that would be profitable. So, what do you say: Will you come tailgate with me on Fortnite?


Hayes Rule is a rising second-year law student at Florida State University College of Law and the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Sports Blawg.

[1] Chris Cwik, NFL will reportedly lose $5.5 billion if games are played in empty stadiums, Yahoo! Sports (May 20, 2020),

[2] Maury Brown, A Deep Dive Into MLB's Financial Losses for The 2020 Season, Forbes (May 18, 2020),

[3] What is the future of virtual concerts on Fortnite and other online games?, Musically (May 28, 2020),

[4] Id.

[5] Sarah E. Needleman, Welcome to 'Fortnite' -- Enjoy the Concert, The Wall Street Journal (June 24, 2020),

[6] Id.

[7] Andrew Lin, How Much Did Travis Scott Make From His Fortnite Concert?, DBLTAP (April 25, 2020),

[8] Jay Peters, Fortnite hosted a Diplo concert in its new party mode, The Verge (May 2, 2020),

[9] Julia Alexander, Watch the new trailer for Christopher Nolan's Tenet that just debuted in Fortnite, The Verge (May 21, 2020),

[10] Andrew Webster, Fortnite's party royale island will air Christopher Nolan movies on Friday, The Verge (June 24, 2020),

[11] Sarah E. Needleman, supra note 5.

[12] Arda Ocal, Epic announces "Fortnite Party Royale" concert with deadmau5, ESPN (May 7, 2020),

[13] Brad Adgate, Why The 2017-18 Season Was Great For The NBA, Forbes (April 25, 2018),

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