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The ultimate in crossover content, as eSports gets a dedicated broadcast channel on Pay TV

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In a great example of how the youth video subculture currently found online could become part of traditional TV, ESL is launching an eSports channel that will appear first on the Viasat satellite Pay TV platform in the Nordic and Baltic countries, then later on other platforms. ESL is owned by the broadcast group MTG, which also owns Viasat. It is the world’s largest eSports company. While some ESL events have appeared on television before (Sky in the UK showed the Intel Extreme Masters event from Katowice earlier this year on Sky 2), this takes television eSports to a whole new level with a dedicated 24/7 broadcast channel.

eSportsTV will be added to the Viasat subscription bundle at no extra cost. There are currently no plans for pay-per-view coverage. ESL is talking to other TV distributors worldwide with the aim of making the channel available as widely as possible.

The new channel will broadcast 2,000 hours of live content a year, covering the best eSports and gaming and featuring the leading eSports stars and teams. This includes coverage of professional eSports leagues and international tournaments, and championships like ESL One, Intel Extreme Masters, ESL Pro League and DreamHack (DreamHack Summer and DreamHack Winter in Sweden are among the world’s largest digital festivals).

DreamHack is also owned by MTG. ESL and DreamHack already have global digital audiences of over 100 million viewers through online platforms such as Twitch, Azubu, Hitbox and Yahoo. Their eSports fans are mainly in the 15-35 age group, although there are older fans too.

There will be no advertising on eSportsTV initially, although channel sponsorship is possible. Turtle Entertainment, the company behind ESL, is in charge of commercial activities for eSportsTV.

“This is a fantastic move by ESL because it will bring eSports to an even broader global audience,” Arnd Benninghoff, CEO of MTGx and Peter Nørrelund, CEO of MTG Sport declared in a joint statement. “eSports is a global sport played all year round so there is so much content to share. 

“This channel is all about building awareness and growing the gaming community and fan base. There are over 2 billion gamers in the world and we have seen an explosion of interest in eSports, with the global fan base now rapidly rising towards 250 million, which is why we want to make more and more eSports content available on as many screens as possible.”

Editor’s comment

One of the important questions for the television industry is how it stays relevant to younger consumers. We already have the multiscreen viewing and the on-demand formats that they like. This is another solution – digital-first content that grew out of their generation migrating to aggregated traditional TV platforms. Some of that content is going to be delivered OTT into hybrid set-top boxes. This deal is notable because the channel is on broadcast spectrum – making it the ultimate in ‘crossover’ content.

According to Newzoo, a market intelligence firm specialising in games across all segments and screens, Males aged 21-35 make up the majority of eSports enthusiasts in the US (43%) and Western Europe (45%). It should be emphasized that ESL and MTG hope to build awareness among new audiences with the new broadcast channel, too.

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