ESPN, the U.S.-based news network and events broadcaster, has launched a website that is dedicated to the industry of eSports.
Chad Millman, editor-in-chief for both the website and ESPN The Magazine, said the company has decided to take the next step in the coverage of the world of competitive gaming by offering credible and authentic storytelling, news and event coverage, and even analysis.
“We want to treat eSports with the same seriousness and credibility that we treat the NFL, the NBA, and major league baseball,” Millman said.
According to Millman, the decision to go deeper with the coverage of eSports came from the passion and engagement of fans of the industry.
“To me the storytelling was so compelling and so powerful,” he said. “People were so engaged with the coverage. It felt like we were doing a disservice to ourselves and a disservice to the audience if we didn’t take this as serious as everything else.”
eSports could achieve much wider viewership
The coverage could serve not only the existing eSports community, but bring the industry closer to a broader and mainstream audience, offering news and information. Events in the past have shown that many people, both viewers and ESPN anchors, have been criticizing televised coverage of eSports.
“I think one of the reasons we were compelled to do this and act on it is because we saw the kind of reaction the eSports issue (of the magazine) was engaged with,” Millman said. “It wasn’t just people who are passionate about eSports or passionate about this community. The way that some of the numbers were put into context helped engage an audience and explain that this is something that you need to be paying attention to.”
Being accessible from the ESPN homepage, the move shows that the company is finally prepared to show commitment to eSports, which is a significant step in its own right for an industry often ignored or treated as a curiosity by mainstream media.
Not ESPN’s first contact with eSports
The company has been “in touch” with eSports a couple of times in the past two years. Broadcasting the biggest Dota 2 tournament in the world, The International, on its streaming channel ESPN3 has seen a more than positive response in terms of viewership numbers. Moreover, in April last year, ESPN2 hosted the finals for a collegiate competition in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, a broadcast that has also seen excellent responses from fans and industry insiders.
Millman also said that the new section will be similar to the rest of the ESPN site in terms of quality and coverage.
“Fans will find the same level of quality content and journalism that users of ESPN.com have come to expect, including in-depth looks at the competitive gaming world and on-site reporting from the major tournaments,” he remarked.
Excellent timing for ESPN
The news about the launch came at a strategically favorable moment. The next season of the League Championship Series (LCS), the biggest eSports league in North America, starts this weekend. With its sister league in Europe, the events feature some of the best teams in League of Legends, probably the most popular eSport in the world.
Additionally, there are other games with major events throughout the year with established huge fan bases like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike, among others. These events should definitely bring a lot of coverage opportunity for the American sports goliath.
The “ESPN of eSports”
Even though many media companies have optimistically claimed to be the “ESPN of eSports” in the past, according to Millman, there is only one that is up to the task:
“I think we will always be determined to be ESPN to all fans, regardless of content. We were all flattered by the comments. I think ESPN will continue to be ESPN in what we’re covering.”