ESPN was so pleased with the success of its recent broadcast of the Dota 2 tounament The International, the renowned broadcaster is looking to expand its esports coverage, according to a source close to ESPN.
The decision for ESPN to broadcast Valve’s The International, which had a prize pool of nearly $11 million, was seen by many in the industry as a sign that esports was finally receiving mainstream recognition. Not only was the tournament broadcast through ESPN’s online service ESPN3 but there was also a one off special documentary about it broadcast on its cable channel ESPN 2.
“ESPN were delighted,” the source, who declined to give specifics on traffic numbers, said.
ESPN have seen enough recent successes with esports and are about to double down.The numbers they hit with The International have only cemented the view that the time is right.”
The viewing figures exceeded expectations across the board, the source said, adding that the Xbox was the number one viewing platform—an interesting statistic for coverage of a PC based game.
ESPN’s next esports project will be Major League Gaming's Call of Duty league. MLG and ESPN recently collaborated on a special Call of Duty event at the Austin X Games, after which MLG President Michael Sepso promised the collaboration wouldn't be "a one-time thing." No games from that tournament were broadcast on any ESPN viewing platform.
That may change the next time around.
“They are in advanced talks to bring that product to both ESPN web properties as well as their TV stations, and they are in the preliminary stages of looking at other games,” the source said, without revealing which games specifically. The process for other games would likely not be as complicated as the Call of Duty talks have proven, however, the source said.
It’s not clear when the deal is likely to be brokered but both parties are said to be “keen” to resolve the talks as soon as possible. MLG declined to comment on this article.
Update: An ESPN representative sent the following statement by email:
"ESPN3 has carried similar events in the past, including MLG and EA. We recognized The International as an opportunity to deliver a championship event, but have not committed to any other eSports coverage at this time."