Network television executives are tasked with forecasting what people want to watch, years ahead of time.
ESPN caught the eSports wave when it broadcasted “Madden Nation,” which featured the popular Madden (NFL) football franchise, from 2005-08.
In 2017, ESPN broadcasted the “FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series.” The NFL Network and Univision plan to telecast the “Madden NFL” series with three major tournaments, including the Madden Bowl. NBC has been broadcasting “Rocket League,” a soccer video game where humans are replaced with rocket-powered cars.
Phil Hersh, who covered 18 Olympic Games for the Chicago Tribune, believes eSports could become an Olympic sport. Speaking at the Charley Steiner Symposium on Sports Communication last month at Bradley, Hersh talked about the International Olympic Committee’s need to modernize the Games and attract younger fans and TV viewers.
“The only reason to talk about eSports is based on the idea they can get more eyeballs to watch,” Hersh said. “They’ll ask, ‘Are people watching in the 15-25 age group? Or maybe it’s as young as 12, or even 8 years old. If 8- to 25-year-olds are watching eSports, that will determine whether it’s in the Olympics.
“Sadly, 50-and-up is the target Olympic audience right now. That needs to change. It’s all part of a much larger discussion, but eSports — I can see that happening.”
The fact that Disney has signed on to broadcast eSports is reason enough to project it’s growth. According to Mashable.com, Disney XD broadcasted a “Super Smash Bros.” tournament and a “Street Fighter” tournament in July. The same platform also presented a gaming-centric show called “D|XP,” which features video games in a block from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. over the summer.
At least globally, eSports is entertaining enough for 173,000 fans to show up to a stadium event and festival. That occurred at the Intel Extreme Masters championship in Katowice, Poland, according to Business Insider. The event also drew 46 million unique viewers online.
The Philadelphia 76ers became the first professional sports team in North America to own an eSports team. In September 2016, the organization bought Dignitas and Apex, as reported by ESPN. Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil had little expertise in competitive video games, so he brought on an executive, Paul Richardson, with consumer tech and video gaming experience to run the venture.
“The market created itself and became a product that a quarter-billion people are watching, and when they watch, they’re watching an hour-and-a-half a day,” Richardson told ESPN. “But at the same time, it’s an incredibly large, immature market that is somewhat of a Wild West.”
Aaron Ferguson can be reached at 686-3207 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sports_Aaron.
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December 24, 2017 at 02:18PM