TBS to Broadcast Video Game Contests as Esports Grows

  • Cable network to air 10 weeks of programming twice per year
  • esports audience projected to surpass 50 million by 2017

As TV ratings decline, media companies are relying on sports broadcasts to reach bigger audiences. Now, Time Warner Inc. will try to reach younger viewers by airing a new kind of sport: video game contests.

Time Warner’s TBS will start televising “esports,” in which gaming teams compete, on Friday nights starting next year. The broadcasts are a part of a partnership announced Thursday with talent agency WME/IMG to create a new competitive video game league.

The broadcasts are the latest sign of a media company trying to attract younger viewers whose entertainment habits have moved online and away from traditional television.

TBS will feature 10 consecutive weeks of programming twice per year and facilitate ad sales and sponsorships surrounding the new league. The cable network will also provide a “state-of-the-art facility” for gamers who will play a "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," a first-person shooter game, during the league’s first season.

“Esports is one of the fastest-growing entertainment genres among young adults around the world,” Lenny Daniels, president of Turner Sports, a division of TBS, said in a statement.

WME/IMG already has its own esports business that focuses on marketing, live event management and licensing top video game competitors.

As video game contests have expanded, so has the market for broadcasting them. In August, Google Inc.’s YouTube introduced a separate app and site for watching live streams of people playing video games. Last year, Amazon.com Inc. paid$970 million for Twitch Interactive Inc., an online gathering place for gamers.

About 32 million people in the U.S. watch esports and that number is expected to grow to more than 50 million by 2017, according to researcher Newzoo. More than half of adult esports viewers are younger than 35, according to market data cited by Turner.

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