Esports on TV
Most of the world watches football on TV, at least to support their country when it manages to make it to the FIFA World Cup. But would the world watch esports on TV? It may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s actually been going on for a while already. ESPN covered the 2014 Dota2 International, which at the time had a $10,000,000 prize pool. This was just one tournament, and while it does seem newsworthy, the backlash was clear; esports should not be on a sports network, because they are not sports. It seems that the backlash stemmed primarily from the terminology of ‘esports’ however, so it’s honestly a cry against the industry in general, as opposed to it specifically being broadcast on TV. These outcries are seen mainly in the western world, but take a trip to China or South Korea, and a different story emerges.
In South Korea, the game of Starcraft has had multiple dedicated TV channels for over a decade. It’s a part of the culture, and while it has been attempted in other areas across the world before, it’s only with the recent esports boom that TV networks are getting more positive results broadcasting and covering esports. An integral part of game design is it’s visual appeal, so it isn’t too surprising that increasingly people enjoy watching the most talented teams and players compete in games for hours at a time. So should they be on TV? Does it even matter if they are or are not?
A large portion of gamers believe it does not matter whether esports are on TV or not. This is because the genre already has it’s own method of reaching the masses, the most popular of these is twitch.tv. Twitch is a platform just like youtube, where individuals can create their own channels, except that these channels are live, and as a viewer people can chat to the content creators. Famous esports stars get hundreds of thousands of viewers chatting with each other while watching, as well as to the creator of the content. In sports this would be equivalent to being able to chat with Kobe live, while he goes through his shooting practice, or watch the whole basketball game from his perspective, the latter of which has partially been attempted by the NBA with their ‘Inside track’ series. So with viewing platforms such as Twitch, Azubu or Hitpoint available, there does not seem to be a need for esports to be on TV. Many esports enthusiasts believe they’re going to keep growing without TV, and who blames them? The industry is already growing rapidly without the aid of TV.
So what could potential benefits of television exposure be for esports in those places where it is not already regularly on TV? First of all, it could open up the genre to people unfamiliar with it, that may be interested. Those who watch TV may not be as willing to watch online, or might be browsing channels and have their interest sparked, so there’s no harm either way for that. Secondly, TV networks finally get to benefit from esports, at the moment, they are losing a young affluent audience to the internet, and this would be a way for them to reconnect. Lastly, Sponsors have a history of working with TV, and if esports is able to get on to TV, it does provide a more comfortable method from a sponsor perspective to get involved. While it is indeed not necessary for the industry, as it is already growing rapidly, it could accelerate things even faster than they already are.
So esports are more frequently appearing on TV's everywhere, this poses great opportunities for TV networks as well as the esports industry. While for some this may seem like a victory for esports, or a hurdle it has passed on it’s way to legitimacy, apparently a lot of gamers are confident that esports will be fine without TV exposure. At this point is does indeed seem that esports are consumed enough via media other than television, we will see soon enough to what extent esports viewership is affected by the increase in TV exposure.