We’ve seen esports coverage head to plenty of traditional sports networks, including TBS (which has done Counterstrike: Global Offensive and Street Fighter V with its ELEAGUE), ESPN (most recently, Street Fighter V) and college networks (both the Pac-12 Networks and the Big Ten Network have gotten into League of Legends in particular). Now, TBS parent Turner is creating some original esports feature programming to complement their match broadcasts, coming up with a four-part behind-the-scenes feature-length series, called ELEAGUE|Road To The International Dota 2 Championships. Here’s more from their release on what that will look like:
This four-episode series, produced by ELEAGUE and premiering Friday, Aug. 4, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on TBS, will follow professional players and teams vying for esports’ largest prize pool – over 21 million dollars. New one-hour episodes will continue Friday, Aug. 11, at 10 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 18, at 11 p.m., and the finale on Friday, Aug. 25, at 10 p.m.
The initial episodes of the series will focus on team life and drama as the best players in the world train for one of the most prestigious events in esports. Later episodes will explore teams’ experiences, triumphs and failures during the tournament itself. The International’s prize pool has set records for the largest in pro gaming since it began crowd funding in 2011. This year’s prize pool is already the largest ever at over 21 million dollars with weeks to spare until crowd funding closes.
And a clip featuring an introduction to one of the competitors, Jimmy “Demon” Ho:
TBS will also be presenting Valve (maker of Dota 2)’s documentary Free To Play about the game (which is a standalone sequel to the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III) Friday, July 28 as an intro to Dota 2. That documentary followed three gamers from around the world as they competed in the first International Dota 2 Championships back in 2011. TBS’ presentation of that will include shoutcaster Toby “TobiWan” Dawson (featured in the film) and ELEAGUE host Richard Lewis discussing the game’s history and how this championship began.
It’s interesting to see Turner move into this kind of shoulder feature programming as well as their coverage of esports matches. They’ve regularly talked about wanting to bring esports to a wider audience, and these kinds of feature-focused pieces that are more about the competitors’ stories might be a way to do that. They could also provide an easier in for those who don’t know the games in question well; some of the stories about competition and preparation for a tournament with an over-$20 million prize purse may resonate with regular sports fans in a way esports game broadcasts alone don’t yet.
Behind-the-scenes features have certainly worked for the NFL (Hard Knocks, All or Nothing, etc) and NHL (24/7, Road To The NHL Outdoor Classics). And this gives Turner some further esports content in their Friday night slots before the third season of ELEAGUE returns with CounterStrike: Global Offensive Sept. 1We’ll see how this one goes, and if feature programming on esports will become more common on traditional sports networks.