'ELeague' gives eSports new TV boost

'ELeague' gives eSports new TV boost

The arena for ELeague, a competitive video gaming league.(Photo: Edward M. Pio Roda, Turner Sports)

With every new tournament and big media partnership, competitive video gaming continues to surge in popularity. But Tobias Sherman thinks the pastime known as "eSports" has yet to reach the next level.

Sherman, global head of eSports at WME | IMG, says the industry met "explosive growth," but still needs to attract new fans and tell more stories about why viewers should watch these players compete.

Enter ELeague, a competitive video gaming league making its prime time debut on TBS Friday night, part of a partnership between WME | IMG and Turner Broadcasting's sports division.

"It’s groundbreaking, but it’s great in the sense that it’s going to push the industry forward," said Sherman in an interview.

ELeague features 24 teams competing in the video game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a first-person shooter where two teams of five battle in a series of competitive matches. Viewers can watch live and on-demand matches through streaming service Twitch or ELeague's website[1], while TBS will host a tournament showcase every Friday night.

"As we see the content landscape evolving industry wide, people insist on being able to consume content on any device, whether that be linear, social, digital," said Craig Barry, Turner Sports executive vice president and chief content officer.

While ELeague maintains the online streaming origins where eSports took off, there's a heavier broadcast influence. Turner built a 10,000-square-foot arena at its studios in Atlanta to host the 10-week season. It boasts 26 cameras, including one that can capture 360-degree views of the floor.

Barry says ELeague presents a chance to follow traditional sports coverage in giving individuals a greater share of the spotlight. "There was a huge opportunity to be able to tell deeper stories, to create narratives around these individual players," he says. "In the past, it’s always about the teams, the publishers and these big tournaments."

The league arrives as eSports continues to blossom. The market is valued at $747 million, according to SuperData Research. Meanwhile, a separate survey from Newzoo finds the number of consumers worldwide who are aware of eSports will top 1 billion this year.

Along with a massive arena, teams will play each week in front of a live audience. "The studio lends itself to a real energy that’s going to translate to the broadcast," says Sherman. "It feels better for the players as well. Having people cheer for them while they’re playing is going to make a big difference."

Turner is among several big names making a push into competitive games, including ESPN and Yahoo, which both launched sites focused on eSports coverage. Sherman says maintaining an authentic experience is key to attracting competitive gaming's biggest fans.

"We really stripped it down to what was most important, which is the competition and featuring it the right way," he says.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23[2].

Read or Share this story:


  1. ^ ELeague's website (
  2. ^ @brettmolina23 (
back to top