CAN eSPORTS MAKE IT ON TV?
eSports is the fastest growing phenomenon ever in sports broadcasting, according to Cable Congress. Mike Moriarty, managing director for AMC Networks International, described the rise of competitive gaming broadcasting as “fascinating.”
“I’ve never seen anything move this fast in our industry from a content point of view on the sports side. The closest thing maybe was the rise of say the UFC, but I’m just amazed at the speed that it [eSports] has come ahead.”
For example: In 2015, League of Legends World Championship had a total of 334 million viewers over the four-week tournament.
While the panel agreed that eSports is already huge, they weren’t sure if traditional broadcast stations could breaking into the market. The young fan base quickly turns to the web to watch the streams and exchange messages about what’s happening; that’s tougher when games are on TV. Older demographics (the vast majority of TV viewers) might not click with eSports.
As we've said before, eSports is still a relatively untapped market, especially with bars and restaurants. When you have events drawing bigger audiences than the NBA Finals, local eateries would be crazy to not add some competitive gaming tournies to their schedule.
ATHLETE VISAS FOR eSPORTS
While Russia has officially named eSport a sport, the US has been sending mixed signals.
In 2015, William “Leffen” Hjelle was deported from the US last year. He entered the country with a tourist visa instead of a P-1 visa (which is granted to athletes). The US government didn’t appreciate that and sent him packing.
Other eSports athletes, such as Canadian League of Legends player Danny “Shipthur” Le was given a P-1 visa, allowing him to train, compete and earn a salary in the US. Yet a top Mongolian Counter-Strike team wasn’t allowed into the US because officials didn’t think they’d leave the US if they came here.
But things are starting to change.
More than 117,000 competitive gaming fans signed a petition to have the US government make eSport an official sport. As far as the White House is concerned, there’s nothing stopping it from being one.
“According to [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services], the agency responsible for processing P-1 visa applications, there is no current policy categorically precluding an eSport from being recognized as a qualifying athletic competition,” the White House wrote. “In fact, USCIS has approved P-1 visa petitions for athletes seeking to enter the United States to compete in eSport events.”
Applications are on a case-by-case basis, however.
How long before the POTUS invites a League of Legends champ to the White House and does that team give the prez a team jersey, too?
DAWN OF MOBILE eSPORTS?
At the moment, eSports are dominated by PC and console games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Halo. But Amazon is looking to throw it’s weight and financial power behind mobile eSports.
Amazon — specifically, Amazon Appstore — is the main sponsor of the 2016 Vainglory summer eSport season. Vainglory is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) for touchscreen mobile devices.
It’s also the first eSports league to allow co-ownership, like many traditional professional leagues.
The season will pit the top eight teams in North America and Europe against one another every weekend until September 11th, making it more of a season than a tournament, and leading up to a championship event. The games will be aired on Vainglory’s Twitch station.