Eleague, the televised e-sports content brand, formed by Turner Broadcasting and IMG, is partnering with one of the largest video game companies.
Electronic Arts and Eleague said on Thursday that they would co-host EA’s video game tournaments for FIFA, its popular soccer game, and televise them on Turner’s TBS channel.
The deal includes Eleague hosting FIFA’s Eleague Fut Champions Cup in February at its Eleague Arena in Atlanta. That competition, which comes with a $100,000 purse, will be streamed live on Twitch and B/R Live, Turner’s live sports streaming service.
Additionally, TBS will start airing other FIFA video game tournaments later this year plus shows recapping the “best moments.” One possibility is Eleague’s Licensed Qualifying Event within the 2019 Global Series, FIFA’s e-sports competition space, in May. That competition will have its own prize pool, with more details expected to come.
The partnership promises to give both FIFA and Eleague greater visibility and a potentially bigger fan base. With the exception of fighting games like Mortal Kombat or Super Smash Bros. in which players battle each other, e-sports often struggles to reach an audience beyond existing fans of particular games.
Soccer, however, is a well-known commodity worldwide. That is a departure from most e-sports, which get big audiences in the United States, South Korea, and China, but few other places.
That point isn’t lost on Todd Sitrin, senior vice president GM of EA’s e-sports division.
“The reality is that, in today’s world, whenever you put on a competition, it has a global audience,” he said. “We will stream live as well as video on demand content through our EA Sports FIFA channels. Those channels have viewers all around the world. Every time we put on a competition, no matter who we’re doing it with, in whatever country, it has viewership all around the world.”
FIFA’s audience serves as a big draw for Eleague as well. While Eleague has partnered with other major game brands including Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. and Activision’s Call of Duty, the sports aspect of FIFA goes well with Turner’s traditional broadcast background.
Craig Barry, executive vice president and chief content officer at Turner Sports, considers the latest partnership to be a new element of his company’s soccer broadcasting arm, rather than solely as an e-sports venture. Turner, which bought sports news site Bleacher Report in 2012, provides soccer coverage through its B/R Football brand including programming on TNT and B/R Live.
“[EA] understood that we have this opportunity with a larger umbrella,” Barry said.