Why ESPN Broadcasts Gaming

Jonathan Conrad and Jaxson Stiver

Analysts expect professional gaming to earn up to $1 billion in revenue by 2019, and it is clear by ESPN’s recent coverage of professional gaming that major media networks want a piece of the income.  ESPN is a worldwide network that primarily focuses on sport broadcasting, so its decision to broadcast, gaming, also known as eSports has sparked a fierce debate among the sports community.

ESPN has covered a few major game titles in the eSport industry.  One game it broadcast was Counter Strike Global Offensive (CSGO). CSGO held a tournament on March 29 at Nationwide Arena. The massive tournament attracted thousands of fans to watch 16 teams compete for a $1 million prize pool. Another major game that ESPN has covered is League Of Legends (LOL). The biggest tournament it hosts each year is the World Championship. The winner of the tournament receives over $1 million.  In 2014 when ESPN3 broadcast the final round of the LOL World Championship, 27 million viewers tuned in to watch. 

Yet, some ESPN enthusiasts argue that such games should not be broadcast by ESPN.  Senior Tommy Parish, a frequent viewer of ESPN stated, “If they are on their own separate channel then I don’t have a problem with it, but if it’s taking the spotlight from bigger sports such as football then it will be a problem.”  ESPN2 currently covers eSports while ESPN1 covers sports like football and basketball. When there is a schedule overlap, Fox will also broadcast games. This overlap upsets some fans when they turn on ESPN to watch a basketball game but instead find  a LOL tournament. ESPN President John Skipper responded to the overlapping concerns by stating, “eSports isn’t a sport it’s a competition, here at ESPN we cover competition as well.”  ESPN Editor-in-Chief Chad Millman stated, “the storyline was so compelling there is no reason we should not be doing this on a daily basis with the same rigor we cover the National Football League or other sports.”  Millman is staying ‘open-minded’ about the recent airing of eSports with the hope that it will bring compelling stories to sports fans.  He stated, “Right now, we think the best opportunity is online, and that’s why we’re implanting ourselves in this space.”