On the heels of the first televised season of DirecTV's "Championship Gaming Series," which featured live professional video-game tournaments, ESPN has entered into a multiyear content agreement with Major League Gaming to provide extensive online coverage of MLG's 2008 Pro Circuit competitions, including exclusive streamed matches, player interviews, scores and stats. ESPN will also feature MLG content in short segments on its existing TV programs.
ESPN will be onsite at each of the 2008 MLG Pro Circuit competitions, reporting news from its own coverage booth for various ESPN programs and platforms, including ESPN360.com.
That young-male demo
Video gaming is one of the most popular activities among young males. According to research from Frank Magid Associates, 34% of males ages 12 to 24 list playing games on consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox as their favorite leisure activity. The next-closest activity, at 14%, is playing sports or exercising. So it's not surprising to see a mainstream media outlet turn its attention to gaming. ESPN's move into covering video games follows those of other TV networks, such as MTV Networks, which has invested in gaming-news sites such as GameTrailers.com and has broadcasted an annual Gamer's Week.
"If things work out nicely, I hope to see a larger relationship down the road," said Raphael Poplock, VP-games, ESPN Enterprises. "I'm bullish on professional gaming. This is a nice first step to establish a presence in this space and find out through reader interaction where to take this moving forward."
A potential second step could include a future MLG season airing on one of the ESPN TV channels. Mr. Poplock said the network has had great success with its "Madden Nation" reality TV show, which also featured a video-gaming competition, through its partnership with Electronic Arts.
As part of the MLG deal, ESPN will launch a section on its website with news, information and video related to competitive gaming. The section will include background on MLG, interviews with top players, video from past competitions and an ESPN/MLG top 10 with regularly updated video highlights. Additionally, MLG will host ESPN co-branded online video-game tournaments.
MLG bought time on USA Network last year to air taped segments chronicling its finals. MLG has had a relationship with ESPN during the year, with gamers from MLG appearing regularly on ESPN 2's "Cold Pizza" morning show.
Mr. Poplock said the ESPN Video Games site is performing ahead of expectations.
"Our next step with espnvideogames.com will be the launch of a new video-game show early this year that will focus on the latest news, events, big software launches and the competitive gaming space," he said. Mr. Poplock added that a crew was at the Consumer Electronics Show last week taping segments for the show.