Frontline Marketing

How Disney Is Designing An Esports Programming Pipeline

ESL esports player wearing branded motorcycle jacket

By | August 1, 2017 |

Another day, another esports announcement that brings competitive gaming to a mainstream audience—this one by way of ESL and Disney.

The two companies are partnering to air ongoing original programming on D|XP, a new daily summer programming block on Disney XD that’s designed to bring a new esports content pipeline and approach to the US market.

ESL Brawlers and ESL Speedrunners will air on the youth-oriented cable channel’s gaming-focused programming block and showcase games, publishers, events and prominent personalities across the landscape. The deal marks the first time ESL is coming to cable TV and it targets students sitting at home while on summer break.

“Gaming is a lifestyle for our audience,” Marc Buhaj, Disney XD’s senior vice president of programming and general manager, told AListDaily. “This summer, we’re collaborating with leading creative partners in the industry to deliver original programming, access to some of the biggest esports tournaments and leagues, and entry to key gaming-related events. D|XP will showcase diverse storytelling across the video game landscape and celebrate the gaming culture and community.”

“Gaming is a lifestyle for our audience,” Marc Buhaj, Disney XD’s senior vice president of programming and general manager, told AListDaily. “This summer, we’re collaborating with leading creative partners in the industry to deliver original programming, access to some of the biggest esports tournaments and leagues, and entry to key gaming-related events. D|XP will showcase diverse storytelling across the video game landscape and celebrate the gaming culture and community.”

Disney XD, whose niche programming is primarily designed to reach children between the ages of six-to-14, joins the likes of Turner’s ELeague to invest more than just one-off esports episodes.

ESL Brawlers and ESL Speedrunners will each consists of seven, 30-minute shows.

Nik Adams, ESL’s senior vice president of global media rights and distribution, says the purpose of D|XP is to deliver new gaming content that appeals to a wider audience while positioning esports as more than just a foreign category for marketers and TV executives.

“From ESL’s perspective, as esports has gone more mainstream, it makes sense to expand its audience reach to those tuning in on linear TV,” Adams told AListDaily. “Given the demographic, esports has traditionally reached a digitally native audience. However, the industry is continually evolving and this deal represents a great way for traditional media companies to adopt this growing area of entertainment . . . Disney’s D|XP is the perfect platform for us to continue creating original programming, and this time, to specifically engage their audience.”

Disney XD previously has broadcast finals for Super Smash Bros. and Street Fighter V. On the flipside, ESL believes that it can engage its already established audience in addition to attracting an entirely new following on a linear platform by partnering with one of the biggest cable networks in the world.

Adams says ESL’s goal is to bring esports to as many screens and audiences as possible with a surplus that already includes 17 shows airing globally and 20,000-plus hours of live content each year through broadcast of events, social media campaigns and live events.

They are pairing to promote their activations, including linear partners like the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One, ESL CS:GO Pro League and National Championships, to market the Disney-designed shows.

“Original programming has become an increasingly important part of ESL’s offering,” Adams says. “This new platform allows us to both reach and engage new audiences while tapping even further into a market that we are gradually maturing in. With that, producing content on linear TV provides us the opportunity to create material that prompts new esports fans as our community snowballs.”