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Competitive video gaming is set to return to television with the Tuesday launch of a 10-weekgaming league that will partly be broadcast on cable networkTBS . Gares, 27, hopes the league will finally validate so-called eSports in the eyes of a long-skeptical American public.
It is to be mentioned that the league will feature 24 teams from around the world, including Gares’ own Echo Fox, owned by former National Basketball Association player Rick Fox , who won three NBA championships while playing with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The teams will compete in the cutthroat first-person military shooter “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.”
With interest in professional gaming surging and money pouring into the industry, Turner Broadcasting and entertainment agency WME/IMG, the companies partnering on the new eLeague, are betting the timing is right for eSports’ breakthrough into the mainstream.
The last attempt at a regularly broadcast gaming league, DirecTv’s Championship Gaming Series,” was launched in 2007. It foundered after only two seasons because it was ahead of its time and turned out not to be financially viable, organizers said at the time.
Turner and WME hope this time will be different, largely because of the exploding popularity in the last three years of the streaming website Twitch. Almost 2 million professional and amateur gamers stream their play on Twitch monthly to more than 100 million viewers. The eLeague aims to replicate that booming interest on television, with games streamed on Twitch Tuesdays through Fridays and simultaneously aired on TBS on Fridays.
SuperData recently projected a growth in revenue for the competitive gaming industry from about $750 million this year to nearly $1.2 billion by 2019.
The lion’s share of that money is coming from sponsors and brands aiming to get their names and products in front of the young and advertiser-coveted gamingaudiences.
Among them is Buffalo Wild Wings, a restaurant chain often associated with traditional TV sports like basketball and football. It is joining the eLeague as an official partner and will air TBS’s Friday night broadcasts and portions of the Twitch-streamed games at its restaurants.
For all that promise, TBS will face the challenges of drawing new fans into the fold and enticing millennials to tune in despite their notorious aversion to television, let alone cable.