NBC Sports is the latest traditional broadcaster to get on board the esports bandwagon.
NBC is bringing Rocket League to its network of channels starting next month with a massive $100,000 open tournament, the network announced today through the Wall Street Journal. The tournament is part of a partnership between NBC Sports, competitive platform FACEIT, and Rocket League developer Psyonix.
Qualifiers will begin in July, with the tournament itself being broadcast on regional NBC Sports channels in August on weekends. The closing stages of the tournaments will be shown on NBC Sports proper and, according to the announcement, on broadcasters in “several countries abroad.”
Rob Simmelkjaer, senior vice president of NBC Sports Ventures, said that esports had become “tough to ignore” when examining potential new broadcasting opportunities.
Broadcasters and advertisers alike are hotly pursuing the esports audience. Esports fans are younger, more tech savvy, and very engaged in what they follow. Crucially, many of them are disconnected from traditional television and media, making them very hard to reach.
The report quotes an analyst from financial services firm Cowen & Co, saying that a “tier 1” esports event has yet to be broadcast on traditional television. This is despite the announcement mentioning Turner Sports’ ELEAGUE and ESPN’s previous coverage, which included the Dota 2 International being broadcast on ESPN3 in 2014—both of which would certainly be considered “tier 1.”
Rocket League had a moment of Twitch popularity last year, but it has fallen somewhat short of establishing itself as a major esport in that short window. Developer Psyonix did partner with Twitch to create the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS), with $2.5 million on offer in a growing circuit of events this year.