On July 27 of this year, just a few short weeks ago, ESPN tried something new. The cable station known for airing sports and shows that make snarky comments about sports took a few hours during prime time and aired the Overwatch League Grand Finals.
This wasn’t on the Ocho. It wasn’t even on ESPN2. This was the real deal one and only ESPN. The one with SportsCenter and… well, to be honest, I haven’t watched much ESPN since my college roommates Than and Jared would watch SportsCenter for what seemed like hours on end. I don’t know what else they have. SportsCenter After Dark? Is that a show?
Based on the ratings, most of you don’t watch ESPN all that much either. The Overwatch League Grand Finals had some super low viewership numbers with just 250,000 households tuning in. By comparison, that was 20% lower than the previous Friday’s showing of Golden Boy Boxing. Here, I assume, is what Golden Boy Boxing looks like.
Still, ESPN is sticking with eSports. ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, talking to the press during ESPN Media Day last week, made it clear that the channel would be showing more video game matches in the future, saying “It’s not going anywhere. We believe it is ascending, and in the spirit of us attracting a younger audience, esports has got to be a priority of ours.”
Pitaro’s logic is sound. eSports is a rapidly growing industry that is expected to make $905 million in revenue this year, an increase of 38% over 2017. Of course, Pitaro is also in a position where he may not have much choice in the matter – Disney, who owns ESPN, signed a multi-year deal with Activision for the right to air the Overwatch League games. How much the deal was for is being kept hush-hush, but these are two companies that don’t do things on the cheap – at least, not when it can make money for their investors.
Whatever the case, expect to see more eSports coming through your cable box soon unless, like millions of other American homes, you canceled your cable because Hulu and Netflix are cheaper. Then you’ll just keep watching on Twitch.
You can follow High Score on…