We’re seeing a bit of a shift in terms of esports content on television, and the latest announcement from ELEAGUE (Turner’s esports partnership with WME/IMG) is indicative of that. The new The ELEAGUE CUP: Rocket League will see a feature series on TBS, but the actual competitions shown on digital platforms YouTube and Twitch.
ELEAGUE previously spread their CounterStrike: Global Offensive and Street Fighter V competitions across TBS and digital platforms, with Turner EVP Craig Barry calling the CS:GO coverage “platform-agnostic” back in May 2016, and they did a behind-the-scenes TBS feature series on the Road To The International Dota 2 Championships in August. Now, they’re combining the two approaches, doing a feature series on TBS and pairing it with game coverage on digital streaming platforms. Here’s more from their release:
Turner and IMG’s ELEAGUE will enter the sports-action video game space for the first time to bring fans The ELEAGUE Cup: Rocket League, a feature series presented on TBS with live gameplay featured on Twitch and YouTube. The ELEAGUE Cup: Rocket League will showcase elite competition, while also shining the spotlight on engaging narratives surrounding teams, players and Rocket League®, the hit game that combines soccer with driving.
“Rocket League is such a fun and entertaining blend of creative vehicles and soccer. With competition at its core, it’s also a popular esports title that resonates with audiences of all ages,” said Christina Alejandre, GM of ELEAGUE and VP of esports, Turner Sports. “We’re very excited to feature this compelling game as we further expand our ELEAGUE portfolio and provide immersive content experiences across all platforms.”
The ELEAGUE Cup: Rocket League, created in partnership with independent video game developer and publisher PSYONIX, will begin Friday, Dec. 1, at 2 p.m. ET with a live invitational tournament on Twitch and YouTube. ELEAGUE will invite the world’s best eight teams – based on their performances at the elite level of pro competition – to play in The ELEAGUE Cup: Rocket League live tournament. In the spirit of international soccer competitions, two four-team groups will each play a round robin with the top two finishers from each group moving on to a single-elimination playoff. Live tournament coverage will continue Saturday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 3, starting at 2 p.m. on Twitch and YouTube. Teams will compete live from ELEAGUE Arena at Turner Studios in Atlanta for $150,000 in prize money.
TBS will also present a three-episode feature series documenting the game’s most accomplished teams and players as they compete at the highest level, including their journey through The ELEAGUE Cup: Rocket League. The series will premiere Friday, Dec. 1, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TBS, with the second and third editions airing at the same time each of the following two Fridays (Dec. 8 and Dec. 15).
This makes some sense on a few levels. The behind-the-scenes features are perhaps easier for the general public to get into than the sometimes-frenetic gameplay broadcasts, and they also carry the narrative arcs Turner executives have always talked about with esports. Meanwhile, Twitch and YouTube are already such established gaming platforms, and many who are already esports fans want to watch live competition results there rather than on TV.
Rocket League makes sense as a title to try and promote to general sports fans, too, given its sports connections; we’ve already seen NBC do this with a summer tournament spread across their regional networks and NBCSN. However, the the Turner approach is different thanks to the plan to show feature content on TV and gameplay on digital. Will that pay off for them, and will it be something embraced in further esports broadcasts? We’ll find out. But it’s certainly interesting to see them shifting more towards esports features for TV, and that may be a trend that continues.