We’ve been saying it for weeks now; esports are going to fully enter the mainstream in terms of live television broadcasting due to the coronavirus shutting down every major sports league in the world pretty much.
Today, April 5th, ESPN will air 12 hours of esports content including Rocket League, Madden, and NBA 2K, in order to plug the void that has been left by the shutdown of live sporting events.
The event is being called “ESPN Esports Day”, and is a marathon that will feature live and pre-recorded esports events that have been broadcast on ESPN2 over the last year or so.
The marathon will start with a block of Madden events followed by an actual live F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix, an idea Formula 1 no doubt poached from Nascar after seeing the viewership numbers from the NASCAR eRacing events shown on FS1 and FOX.
The F1 event will be followed by Rocket League and then will lead into the highly anticipated live NBA 2K Players Tournament which features $100,000 to the winner to donate to coronavirus relief efforts of their choosing. The event will then end with the Apex Legends Pro-Am that was broadcast last July.
With major sports leagues shutting down, esports has inadvertently benefited greatly as people are spending so much time at home and have no live sports content to watch.
Twitch has reported about a 10-15% increase in viewership numbers from February to March, during which the quarantine efforts from all major world governments have intensified.
ESPN clearly understands what’s happening and they want in on the action as well. ESPN also doesn’t really have an alternative as they can only fill so many programming slots with Sportscenter and 30 for 30 reruns.
This global pandemic will undoubtedly change the operational nature of many businesses and it looks like esports will be a huge beneficiary. The esports world was perhaps always destined to become a mainstream attraction but current world events seem to be accelerating the growth curve of the video game business as a live broadcast attraction.