Credence for the claim comes from the involvement of two of the biggest UK and European broadcasters, Sky and ITV. Both are expected to take a minority stake in the business to help fund its growth.
Ginx eSports TV will broadcast to an audience of 37 million
Programming will include the Turner ELEAGUE, FACEIT’s eSports Championship Series, and Valve’s The International Dota 2.
The press release promises additional content from “Riot, Activision, EGL, Gfinity and more.”
The channel will be distributed in the UK and Ireland to around 14 million subscribers as well as to another 23 million homes outside the UK.
Michiel Bakker, Ginx TV Ltd. CEO said:
“GINX eSports TV aims to add significant mainstream TV exposure to the fast growing eSports ecosystem. Complementing online streaming, with an entertainment-led approach, the launch on Sky and the rebrand across all our 37 million households allows us to help new audiences discover eSports and hopefully gives core fans a fresh perspective.
I am also delighted about the prospect of Sky and ITV joining our shareholder roster, it goes without saying that the combined media footprint and expertise of both presents a significant opportunity for us to make a bigger impact, faster.”
Big broadcasters recognise the potential for esports on TV
In the ESBR article “eSports Betting: The Revolution Will Be Livestreamed,” Alex Fletcher argued that livestreaming over internet channels such as Twitch creates “authentic touchpoints with the actual competitive community.”
TV broadcasts can lack the authenticity demanded by esports fans and they display an antipathy towards the advertising that drives TV revenues.
But it’s now looking like the big broadcasters won’t let livestreaming get all the action.
They want to be part of the revolution, and are embarking on the investment that will help them understand how to make the most of the opportunity.
- Turner Broadcasting has already begun showing its own ELEAGUE events, transmitted direct from a specially built esports studio.
- French channel Canal+ is sponsoring Team Vitality, the first major European TV channel to sponsor an esports team.
- Esports now has its own tab on ESPN which is now broadcasting esports competitions like the 2016 Collegiate Heroes of the Storm Tournament (Heroes of the Dorm).
- Comcast has partnered with ESL and esports team Evil Geniuses.
- ESL has announced the launch of a European TV channel in partnership with MTG’s Viasat platform.
- The ESL One Frankfurt Dota 2 tournament will be broadcast on German TV channel SPORT1, the first esports event ever to be broadcast on SPORT1.
Broadcasters are still at the experimental stage
Sky’s interest in the Ginx deal was neatly expressed by Emma Lloyd, group director of business development and strategic partnerships.
“This is an exciting new partnership which will help us develop our understanding of eSports and its audience.”
The sentiment expresses exactly where the broadcasters are at in their growing interest in esports; they are still trying to understand what it’s all about.
Whether sponsoring a team, or beginning broadcasting, the broadcasters are still in an experimental phase, trying to find the formula which will work best for them.
ITV’s Managing Director of Online, Pay and Interactive Simon Pitts summarized the opportunity from the broadcaster’s perspective:
“eSports is experiencing phenomenal growth and Ginx’s vision is to bring together two incredibly popular forms of entertainment – gaming and television – to create a unique, global proposition.
We’re delighted to be partnering with Ginx and Sky as part of our strategy to target younger audiences, develop new programming genres and expand internationally.”
The sports industry sees TV broadcasting in an equally positive light
Ralf Reichert, managing director of ESL, talking about the decision by SPORT1 to broadcast its first esports event, said:
“To distribute our content through traditional television channels isn’t just an opportunity that lies close to our hearts: it is also a milestone that when reached will help grow esports and its popularity.”
2016 is definitely the year that esports has broken into television. The consequences should be positive for esports and help create the audience interest that will drive esports betting.