By Barry Janoff
January 29, 2016: The plan for an eSports League unveiled by Turner Broadcasting and WME | IMG this past September finally has a play date.
Turner and WME | IMG said this week that its eLeague would make its debut on May 24, with live event coverage featuring Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Tournament coverage, from Turner Studios in Atlanta, will cover ten weeks, scheduled to include a six-week regular season then, following by bye week,a one-week "last chance" qualifier round and two weeks of playoffs.
The tournament is scheduled to culminate with the semifinals on July 29 (10 PM ET) and the Global Championship best-of-three match on July 30 (4 PM ET).
Turner is expected to support with multi-media marketing, including TV, tie-ins with other Turner sports properties such as NBA on TNT and Inside the NBA, the upcoming coverage (with CBS) of NCAA March Madness, Internet and social media.
eLeague competition will also have live event coverage across digital platforms (Tuesday through Thursday) and a three-hour Friday night showcase via TBS (and digital platforms).
“eSports is one of the fastest growing entertainment genres among young adults around the world,” Lenny Daniels, president for Turner Sports, said regarding the formation of the Turner-WME | IMG alliance. “We’re looking forward to creating a tremendous live event atmosphere, leveraging the infrastructure and expertise within Turner Studios, and presenting the competitions in an innovative way throughout our portfolio of leading brands.”
Domestically, the eSports audience is currently 32 million people with anticipated growth to more than 50 million by 2017, with more than half of adult eSports viewers younger than 35 years old, according to Turner and WME | IMG.
Global eSports viewership is more than 226 million people, with the total expected to climb to 323 million by 2018, per NewZoo, San Francisco, a global market research and predictive analytics firm with a primary focus on games and mobil.
WME | IMG said that its eSports business "operates as a full-service team management, marketing and representation firm with specialties in brand consulting, digital and live event management, marketing and licensing."
Among the non-endemic brands aligned with eSports are Coca-Cola, Intel, Nissan and T-Mobile.
eSports revenues totaled $194 million in 2014 and are predicted to reach $278 million in 2015 and are estimated to grow to $765 million in 2018, according to The Global Growth of Esports, a study released last year from NewZoo.
“The eSports environment is purpose-built for a generation that consumes content across multiple platforms and seeks unique live experiences,” said Mark Shapiro, chief content officer for WME | IMG. “We’re proud to be partnering with Turner to give competitive gaming a first-of-its-kind platform to meet the needs of the industry’s growing fan base and attract new audiences around the world.”
“We’re looking forward to creating a tremendous live event atmosphere, leveraging the infrastructure and expertise within Turner Studios."
According to Turner and WME | IMG, "Since its introduction, the Counter-Strike franchise has been the very definition of the competitive first-person shooter category in eSports. In recent years, the game has exploded in popularity and reach, with competitions selling out stadiums and setting new viewership records on streaming platforms. Millions of players log on to the Steam Platform each month to see if they’ve got what it takes.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will "now take competitive video games, and eSports, to the next tier with the introduction of the eLeague," according to Turner and WME | IMG
eSports Gets Boost From Turner eLeague Plan
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