The global eSports industry has exploded in recent years, leapfrogging from casual hobbies to wildly popular multi-million dollar, arena-filling events, and is continuing to gain mainstream acceptance. Now, the Electronic Sports League (ESL) is looking to tap into a larger and more mainstream audience by launching one of the world's first 24/7 eSports TV channels – eSportsTV.
Set to launch in May 2016, the channel will feature broadcasts of ESL's biggest competitions and tournaments including Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One, Pro League competitions and more on parent company Media Times Group's (MTG) Viasat platforms. Aiming to increase "content accessibility for the eSports community worldwide," the channel will operate alongside other existing ESL partnerships with Twitch, Hitbox, Azubu and Yahoo.
MTG will also distribute eSportsTV content through its Nordic and Baltic satellite platforms and are currently in talks with other TV distributors and platform operators across the globe.
With the launch of its new initiative, ESL expects its current viewership of over 100 million fans to expand further by giving broader access and coverage of each year's 2,000 hours worth of live gaming and eSports content.
"We have always dreamt of making esports the world's most popular sport, and it's the opportunities like this one that bring us one step closer to making that dream come true," ESL Managing Director Ralk Reichert said in a statement. "Bringing new and existing content to more screens worldwide is key to further accelerating the growth and popularity of esports, and we're on a mission to reach every gamer in the world."
The mushrooming eSports market is currently valued at $747m and is expected to more than double to $1.9bn by 2018, according to SuperData. Video game publishers and developers such as Microsoft, EA, Psyonix and Activision have already taken to hosting their own tournaments to tap into the digital action that drew an estimated audience of 134 million in 2015.
Media companies like ESPN and Yahoo have launched their own exclusive verticals dedicated to covering the competitive video-gaming scene. According to a report by market analysis firm Newzoo, international brands are expected to spend $128 million on sponsoring eSports events in 2016.
"This is fantastic because it will bring esports to an even broader global audience. Esports is a global sport played all year round so there is so much content to share," Arnd Benninghoff, CEO of MTGx, and Peter Nørrelund, CEO of MTG Sport, said. "The channel is all about building awareness and growing the gaming community and fanbase. We have seen an explosion of interest in esports and we want to make more and more content available on as many screens as possible."