eSports could very well have a future in television, as proven last night when ESPN 2 aired the Heroes of the Dorm tournament, an event that got a lot of attention not only from viewers, but also those on social channels.
The tournament, hosted by Blizzard Entertainment, aired on a similar channel that showed the likes of baseball and other activities, indicating that eSports could be here to stay with television broadcasts, according to SBNation.
Viewership of eSports based events have gotten bigger over the years, mainly due to specialized online channels like Twitch.tv airing them for all the world to see. However, they haven’t dabbled too much in television until now, and last night’s broadcast was a clear indication that ESPN wasn’t afraid to try something new with it – despite some skepticism that eSports were “not a sport”, expressed by ESPN president John Skipper.
The tournament, which revolved around Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, did well on social channels as well, with both positive and negative comments surrounding the event. Michelle Beadle, sports reporter for ESPN, led the charge with a number of memorable quotes, including “I took the bait. Just turned on ESPN 2. As someone whose face appears daily on the channel, I don’t have answers. #LeeroyJenkins #chicken.” And “I’m loving the cautious approach by both teams. A lot of twirling and shooting and stuff. The mines could prove disastrous.” (A number of her comments have led to hundreds of retweets and favorites.)
I never realized watching eSports with the ESPN bottom line running would be so satisfying. #HeroesOfTheDorm
— Bryce Blum (@eSportsLaw) April 27, 2015
Sky Temple is next? Color me intrigued. #HeroesOfTheDorm
— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) April 27, 2015
— ChanManV (@ChanmanV) April 27, 2015
Does this mean the channel will begin airing eSports on a regular basis That has yet to be seen, but last night’s numbers indicate that there is a place for such competition on at least one of the ESPN channels, even if Skipper’s feelings about the medium haven’t entirely changed. One look at Twitch’s ongoing viewership numbers (over 100 million monthly and counting) easily shows that there’s a growing trend – and it’s just getting stronger.
And with a number of tournaments coming this year – including events surrounding Valve’s DOTA 2 and Riot Games’ League of Legends, with millions of dollars at stake – the broadcaster may take a chance sooner rather than later.