Sony’s PlayStation Vue internet TV service later this month will add esportsTV, from competitive-gaming event producer ESL — the first 24-hour linear television network in the U.S. dedicated to the genre.
Will the new channel really move the needle for either PS Vue or ESL? It’s hard to see how it will appeal to anyone other than hardcore eSports nerds, given the plethora of free competitive-gaming content already available on Twitch, YouTube and other platforms. Note that ESL last month inked a nonexclusive pact with Twitter, which plans to live-stream some 1,500 hours of eSports programming in 2017 under the deal.
ESL’s EsportsTV will be part of PlayStation Vue’s top-tier Elite ($55 per month) and Ultra ($75 monthly) packages. The channel’s launch is expected in time for the first stop on the Intel Extreme Masters tour, IEM Sydney, which begins on May 4 in Sydney, Australia. The ESL-produced IEM series features “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” “StarCraft II” and “League of Legends” tournaments at venues worldwide throughout the year.
In any case, the ESL channel is a natural fit for PlayStation Vue, given its pole position on Sony’s game console. And if nothing else the deal serves as further validation of the eSports category — which continues to boom in popularity.
Sony clearly sees more bang for the buck in esportsTV than some traditional cable nets: PS Vue dropped Viacom’s Comedy Central, MTV and other networks last fall, with Sony citing poor value, while at the same time adding NBA TV and BBC America.
“EsportsTV is the perfect complement to the PlayStation Vue offering and represents just another step for eSports as a form of mainstream entertainment,” said ESL executive chairman Steven Roberts.
Also worth noting: ESL recently hired former Fox TV executive David Hill as a consulting producer for major events, aiming to add TV-caliber production sizzle to its programming.
ESL launched esportsTV in Europe in May 2016 and now reached more than 5 million households around the world. Currently, eportsTV is distributed by M7 (the Nordics, Baltics, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, El Salvador), Vivendi’s Canal Plus (France), MTG (Scandinavia, Baltics, Czech Republic, Bulgaria) and Kwesé (sub-Saharan Africa).
Founded in 2000, ESL is owned by Sweden-based digital entertainment group MTG.