Thanks for posting this, @mediohxcore.
Watching e-sports is the only other passion of mine that rivals ANR. My average weekends are spent watching 8hrs of Twitch; more when there are large events happening, during which it's not uncommon for me to spend a solid 12-14hrs actively watching Twitch. I don't have it on the background, and I generally don't have company. My point isn't as much how pathetic I am as how much time I spend watching e-sports. I watch mostly CSGO and LoL, but I will also tune into other games, typically during special events. SC2 Grand Finals were especially exciting. I grew up watching professional sports, namely football, which I still enjoy; however, in the past 2 years e-sports has all but pushed traditional sports out for myself, especially since the larger events tend to overlap with football on weekends.
All that to say, I've watched a lot of e-sports. ANR is definitely not as immediately arresting as games like CSGO and LoL. That said, there is potential for it to become something like an e-sport, in phenomenon. StarCityGames events on Twitch tend to attract over 20,000 viewers, I would assume the official Wizards ones can break 50,000. Granted, MTG is much larger than ANR, but it is also older. I think MTG will always be larger, because it is, for lack of a better word, more rudimentary, and has a broader base appeal; however, given 10 years or even 5 ANR could become quite popular.
ANR also has an advantage w/r/t the e-sports scene. I have the impression that the ANR community and those it generally attracts are either a) already involved in the playing and/or spectating of e-sports, or b) more inclined to be so than players from other tabletop games. Many ANR players come from tech industries and are frequently interested in technology in general. Twitch is IMO the most exciting innovation in the entertainment sector since the Internet.
IMO, the passion and background of the collective ANR community means it could quickly and effectively organize into an e-sport than many other communities. The game is already very young and we have people like @mediohxcore @d1en @SneakySly @bahram @kiv @spags putting in lots of personal effort to provide online content and community hubs. The greatest challenge moving forward will probably always be attracting more players to the game. By and large, your viewers are players. This holds true even for the largest games. In time, e-sports will almost assuredly overcome this, and bars playing CSGO matches will be (almost) as common as a pub playing a football game. That is still a ways off, but in the meantime ANR can continue to grow and foster its community.
Last thing I would like to say is while ANR is more abstract than MTG and other games, commentators go a long way. Just as someone who has never played LoL, MTG, or Hearthstone can tune into a stream and understand more by the end, someone can watch a TC video and start to grasp some concepts of ANR. The biggest advantage that Hearthstone has is that it is digital and much easier (and exciting) to watch and comprehend than tiny cards on a table. I honestly think if MTG released a flashy digital client, it could attract more viewers than Hearthstone. A digital ANR client would be truly incredible. I can just imagine an RND run through 3 ice, only to access a card.... Snare! Flatline! I already get hype when that happens to me or my opponent in an OCTGN game; seeing it happen in a client with some animations would be that much more hype. The other advantage that HS has is that it allows those curious outsiders to immediately try it at any time, for free (which is certainly a huge advantage).
The article is about much more than ANR as an e-sport than as a spectator e-sport on Twitch. W/r/t the competitive scene growing to that of an e-sport, it is both very possible and very challenging. The most successful e-sports scenes may have been started by players, but it takes a company's support to truly catapult a game to e-sports status. I don't foresee that happening any time with FFG, since they are involved in so many things; however, if the community continues to build itself and proves that there is money to be made by FFG, their involvement becomes more likely.
Oh and it definitely is possible to get sponsors like Doritos for community events, assuming you have exposure on a platform like Twitch. I've seen a few Team Spooky tournaments lately that were sponsored by Doritos or Totinos Pizza Rolls. These tournaments had cash prizes. All the companies got out of it were plugs on the stream and possibly a few commercials. Once you have a dedicated and proven Twitch presence, so many things are possible. ANR has its work cut out for it, since it is IMO a harder game to attract players to, but as Kevin Garnett once screamed--"Anything is possible!"