2017 eSports TV Programming Grows 4X


eSports TV Programming Grows 4X In 2017 (Graphic: Christopher Reath)

As we near the end of the first quarter of 2017, let’s take a look at what’s happened with eSports across the TV landscape.



TNL Infographic 029: 2017 TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

Clearly the biggest change between 2016 and 2017 is the increase in programming. Whereas Q1 2016 had just 2, Q1 2017 will have 9 events on TV.

Naturally we also saw an increase in TV Networks as well with 2 in 2016 and 5 in 2017, with the biggest being the first eSports program on ESPN’s flagship channel.




Last week, I covered how eSports isn’t even close to traditional sports TV ratings yet, so no need to rehash that. However, even with a much smaller audience, there’s some interesting data:

  • Not surprising that the ELEAGUE Major was #1 but I'm very interested to see how their first Street Fighter event performs.  Considering that another Fighting game - Mortal Kombat - was the highest rated show for 2016, I'm bullish on the genre


  • Sports titles dominated Q1 with 7 of the 9 programs – granted there were some Tape Delays and Replays


  • EA's FIFA also performed well. The Miami regionals had more than double the audience of last years FIFA Interactive World Cup Finals - 96,000 vs. 41,000




I've said that I believe that one of eSports big themes for 2017 will be media rights and distribution.  The partnerships continue to flow.


January: The Big 10 Network agreed to a deal with Riot Games to host a League of Legends season spanning 2 months with 12 schools like Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin participating (The Big 10 Network is a joint venture between the Big 10 Conference and Fox Entertainment Group).


ESPN Brazil Launches 3 eSports Shows (Photo: ESPN)

February: ESPN Brazil announced 3 new weekly eSports TV shows as well as multiple game championships.  The shows consist of:

  • Multiplayer: An eSports "simulator"
  • Match Making:  Friday news show covering the Brazilian eSports scene and interviews with Pros
  • Arena eSports: Saturday show focused on global eSports

ESPN Brazil also has a deal with ESL to broadcast part of the Brazil Premier League. The agreement will bring 200 hours of programming.


GINX eSports TV Expands To MENA (Photo: GINX eSports TV)

GINX eSports TV is now in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region via partnership with the OSN network. GINX eSports TV becomes the area's 1st 24-hour dedicated gaming channel.

GINX eSports TV is now 40+ countries, 9 languages and 36 million homes.

The CW To Broadcast eSports Event During Primetime


H1Z1 Documentary Series and Tournament on The CW (Photo: Daybreak Studios)

The documentary series will follow Rick Fox's eSports team Echo Fox which was one of the earliest teams to invest in H1Z1.

Although H1Z1 is relatively new having launched 2 versions of the game in February 2016, it's quickly picked up eSports teams signing players and generated decent viewership on Twitch.

While this is a big opportunity to showcase H1Z1 to the masses, there are a few interesting details related to the tournament:

  • Only 4 teams have been announced for the event - Echo Fox, Rogue Gaming, Denial and Panda Gaming - with 11 remaining spots remaining with less than 2 months left. Individual players can enter however will need to be signed by an eSports team
  • Those entering the event can't use their own hardware or peripherals. ASUS ROG are one of the sponsors for the tournament...who also sponsor Echo Fox
  • All team jerseys with sponsors must be approved prior to the event

Take note of the last 2 points.

As eSports continues to gain momentum and mass exposure, more restrictions are going to come down from the game publishers regarding their IP.

It's great to see The CW network invest in eSports and we'll see if they can beat their 2016 ratings as well as top 2017 to date.

2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

Did You Watch the Super Bowl Or eSports This Weekend?


New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons In Super Bowl LI (Photo: EA Sports)

TNL Take: This weekend saw amazing sports competition. Intense rivalries.  Fans going crazy. Fierce action.

And there was also the first half of Super Bowl LI.

I'm kidding.

You were more than likely part of the ~110M around the country that watched The Biggest Event Of The Year™. In the ever shifting media landscape, there is no other vehicle that engages us Americans for 3 hours every year than the Super Bowl.

However this weekend also saw some big developments in another area.

In the perfect timing department, this past Thursday I wrote about my belief that 2017 will be a pivotal year for eSports broadcast rights and TV/Distribution monetization.

Then on Friday came this announcement: EA Sports is partnering with NFL Network and Univision to broadcast this weekend's Madden Bowl and another deal with ESPN to show this weekend's FIFA Regional Finals in Paris.

Madden Bowl 17 Championship Belt (Photo: EA Sports)

Let's start with Madden first.

That Madden Bowl being broadcast on the NFL Network wasn't anything new - I even mentioned that also last week - but the addition of Univision Deportes is great to see.  This is the 2nd eSports program for Univision after airing December's Madden Classic in LA.

The ratings will be out shortly and I'll provide an update but here's a viewership comparison:

  • NFL Network [Fri 1/27 9:00PM - 10:00PM]  129,000 and 58,000 in 18-49
  • Univision Deportes Madden Classic [12/5 9:00PM - 10:00PM] 23,000 and 18,000 in 18-49

Any eSports numbers equivalent to prior programming is probably considered a win.

Madden Bowl was also streamed across EA.com, Twitch, Facebook and YouTube Gaming. Checking throughout the broadcast, Twitch was drawing ~3X the viewers as YouTube Gaming or Facebook, which were both about the same:

Madden Bowl Streaming Viewership - Twitch, Facebook, YouTube Gaming (Photo: Manny Anekal Twitter)

Considering it's still very early days for competitive Madden and this was only the 2nd Major, the streaming audience wasn't bad. In fact, during the Friday Madden Bowl Finals, the individual channel had the highest peak viewership on Twitch - equal to eSports powerhouse DoTA2, more than Ubisoft's Rainbow 6 Invitational and much more than the Halo Championship Series.

The entire Madden Bowl was amazing with the Finals coming down to the wire and Chris "Dubby" McFarland taking home the belt and $75,000.

EA Sports FIFA Paris Regional Finals (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Sports FIFA Paris Regional Finals (Photo: EA Sports)

More interesting was EA Sports FIFA partnership with ESPN which will be the first time the network airs an eSports event on its flagship channel.

As it's already been noted, the ESPN broadcast is not only tape delayed but runs smack in the middle of the Super Bowl.  Here's what ESPN aired last year against Super Bowl 50 and how it compares against eSports on TV:

eSports On TV and ESPN 2016 Super Bowl Programming (Chart: The Next Level)

It's a smart counter-programming move with very little downside. I'm eager to see what the ratings will be.

Here's the full schedule for FIFA across ESPN and Univision:

  • Saturday, February 4th (Paris): Live at 12pm on ESPN Deportes & ESPN3
  • Sunday, February 5 (Paris): 6-7pm ESPN (Tape Delay)
  • Saturday, February 11 (Sydney): Live at 3am on ESPN Deportes & ESPN3, 7am on ESPN2 (Tape Delay)
  • Sunday, February 19 (Miami): Live at 7pm on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, April 8 (Vancouver): Live at 8pm on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, April 22 (Singapore): Live at 6am on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, May 6 (Madrid): Live at 11am on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
  • Saturday, May 20 (Berlin – Grand Final): Live at 11am on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes

Further, the FIFA Finals featured an Athlete sponsored by German Soccer team FC Schalke 04, one of the 30+ Pro Teams that have invested in eSports.

EA Sports FIFA Paris Regional Finals (Photo: EA Sports)

Looks like 2017 should easily eclipse 2016 in terms of eSports on TV.

2017: eSports, TV and Broadcast Rights

2017: eSports, TV and Broadcast Rights

2017: eSports, TV and Broadcast Rights (Graphic: Julian Burford)

TNL Take: Go ahead and file this away till December but mark my words:

In 2017, eSports TV, broadcast rights and exclusivities will see big growth.

Yesterday we looked the 1st national eSports TV broadcast of the year with ELEAGUE's Counter-Strike Major.

There's been a lot more news over the past 6 weeks.



ESL was on a tear in 2016...

... and 2017 is not slowing them down.

Yesterday, ESL announced a partnership with former creator of Fox Sports David Hill to launch "eSports by Hill" to provide premium broadcast experiences to eSports.

Hill is a Fox veteran having created Fox Sports and regional Sports networks as well as being responsible for the 1st Down yellow line in NFL broadcasts (Win) and the glowing Hockey puck (Fail). Hill also co-produced the 88th Academy Awards and was the executive producer on “The X Factor” and “American Idol.”

While some have commented that Hill was also responsible for the train wreck that was the Championship Gaming Series, that may have also been a case for CGS being too early having launched a decade ago.

Will be interesting to see what Hill brings to ESL in terms of production and casters.



ESL's Counter-Strike Pro League (Photo: ESL)

I told you, ESL is not slowing down.

YouTube Gaming get's Exclusive English broadcast rights for ESL's Counter-Strike Pro League for Seasons 5 and 6.

ESL's Pro League features 28 of the top NA and EU Counter-Strike teams battling for a $1M prize pool per season with the Season 5 Finals held at the Verizon Theatre in Dallas in June. 



GINX eSports TV's "The First Hour" (Photo: GINX eSports TV)

GINX eSports TV, the UK based 24/7 eSports cable and satellite channel, announced that their "The First Hour" show would feature an eSports twist for the new season.

Hosts Adam Savage and Anthony Richardson will chart their first hour of gameplay with AAA releases along with familiar eSports titles and Athletes in the space.

These type of "Let's Play" shows have performed well for YouTuber's but the jury is still our on how this works within eSports. Playing a new game for an hour vs. a popular eSports title are 2 very different things.



Australia's Fetch TV To Launch 24/7 eSports Channel (Photo: Fetch TV)

UK based GINX eSports TV launched in Q4 of 2016 and is already distributed in 40+ countries worldwide.

Now Australia wants in on the action.

Aussie IP-based broadcaster Fetch TV announced the launch of Malaysian-based eGG (Every Good Game) on its platform earlier this month with the first broadcast being the Dota 2 Boston Major which featured 3 Australian eSports Athletes.

In addition to international eSports tournaments, eGG will also feature shows based around gaming culture, reviews, events and talk shows.



ESL Partners With Spanish Broadcaster Movistar (Photo: Movistar)

Spanish telco company Movistar, owned by parent company Telefonica Espana, announced a partnership with ESL to push eSports further in Spain.

The deal is made up of several parts:

  • Movistar and ESL will bring more sponsored amateur and professional competitions with eSports games like  Counter-Strike and League of Legends (the Spanish ESL National Championship previously existed)

  • The company announced their own eSports club Movistar Riders, which will have teams in 5 games - although that seems like a conflict?

  • Movistar will also launch an eSports TV channel to broadcast Spanish eSports events, as well as 13 global events in 2017

  • Additional eSports content will be produced in the new Movistar Gaming Center, which will also act as the physical headquarters for Movistar Riders



Only 1 month down in 2017 and eSports is growing even more quickly than 2016.