Turner Broadcasting System and WME/IMG are partnering up to create a video game league that will be broadcast on primetime television, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The league is scheduled to launch next year on TBS. Each tournament will last 20 weeks. The first seasons competitors will be playing “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” a video game published by Valve.
If you’re wondering who would watch this, just ask the 11,000 people who packed Madison Square Garden to watch a “League of Legends” championship last year. It didn’t exactly sell out the stadium, but those numbers show that the industry of e-sports is rapidly growing.
Just last year Amazon bought Twitch Interactive Inc., an online video channel for people to watch others play video games infamously mocked by Jimmy Kimmel for $970 million. DraftKings, a fantasy sports site, plans to soon add an e-sport component in which people can draft professional video game players just as they would draft a fantasy football team.
Newzoo, a research firm that specializes in the gaming industry, has estimated that the current e-sports audience in the U.S. consists of 32 million people; it expects that number to jump up to 50 million in 2017. Worldwide, Newzoo estimates an online gaming audience of 200 million people.
With this partnership, WME/IMG is expanding on its recent buy into e-sports. Earlier this year, the company purchased Global eSports Management, an agency that represents professional gamers.
Though this could prove to be a successful venture, it does come with caveats. ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co., has attempted to air e-sports on television in the past and has not seen much success. There has also been some controversy regarding gamers using attention-enhacing drugs such as Adderall to improve their performance, which brings up the consideration of drug testing to preserve “the integrity of the sport.”