eSports have faced an uphill battle to claw their way into the public’s eye.
Since the early 2000s, eSports has constantly been growing. But since the release of Dota 2 and League of Legends, eSports has exploded with growth.
The International Dota 2 Championships took place in July 2014. $10 million in prize money was up for grabs. Valve partnered with ESPN to air the tournament across its network.
The International Dota 2 Championships packed a stadium. Other similar LoL and Dota 2 tournaments have also packed stadiums over the past few years.
Unfortunately, despite all of this good news, one of the most influential people in sports broadcasting still claims that eSports are not real sports.
John Skipper says eSports are “not a sport”
ESPN President John Skipper was recently asked to comment on Amazon’s $1 billion purchase of Twitch – a video game streaming site that lives and breathes eSports and video game broadcasting.
That’s when Skipper said something controversial:
“It’s not a sport – it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.”
That should strike at eSports fans hard – especially since ESPN airs bowling competitions. It should also hurt because the Dota 2 tournament was wildly successful for ESPN and blew away ratings expectations. Rumors were flying that ESPN was going to expand its gaming coverage.
Sports fans are increasingly turning to ESPN’s superior competitors
ESPN has faced huge backlash in recent months due to its ridiculous commercialization of a certain few sports and athletes.
You can’t turn on ESPN for more than ten minutes without hearing about what LeBron James ate for breakfast or how Johnny Manziel – a backup quarterback on a mid-range NFL team – is managing his feelings.
At the same time, ESPN does little but promote sports for which it has coverage. In fact, there’s a whole Wikipedia article explaining why ESPN is a bad sports network.
In short, ESPN is being criticized as more of a celebrity news network than a genuine sports network.
Thankfully, Americans have viewing options. Fox Sports Live and NBC Sports have both massively improved their games in recent years. While ESPN is slowly becoming unwatchable, its competitors are constantly gaining ground.
This isn’t necessarily bad news for eSports fans. You just have to hope that one of ESPN’s competitors sees the opportunity in eSports coverage and picks it up.
All personal bias aside, there’s a lot of money to be made from eSports. And money, if nothing else, will attract broadcasters.