Media giant Turner Broadcasting is planning an esports league featuring Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Launched in partnership with talent agency WME | IMG, the league will bring in the top Counter-Strike teams from across the globe to participate in two 10-week seasons annually. No dates have been set yet, but the league will start in 2016.
The network has also committed to ancillary programming that will include profiles on players and teams, pieces documenting the rich history of the game, and digital content including the use of Turner’s top-rated Bleacher Report app.
The still-unnamed league will be televised on TBS, home to premium live events such as the Major League Baseball postseason and March Madness. On TBS, the CS:GO event will broadcast alongside a variety of shows such as American Dad and Conan, the late night show featuring Conan O’Brien. Turner Sports is also known for its coverage of the NBA on TNT.
“Esports is one of the fastest growing entertainment genres among young adults around the world,” Lenny Daniels, president of Turner Sports, said in a press release. “We’re looking forward to creating a tremendous live event atmosphere, leveraging the infrastructure and expertise within Turner Studios, and presenting the competitions in an innovative way throughout our portfolio of leading brands.”
Tobias Sherman, head of WME | IMG’s eSports division, added: “WME | IMG is constantly seeking new ways to help fans enjoy the eSports they love and attract more fans to the sport. This venture is a great example of our commitment to growing the eSports industry, and Turner is the perfect partner to make this a reality. We’ve so enjoyed working with Valve and the teams through this endeavor, and we’re excited for the future.”
This move represents a huge leap forward for esports broadcasting, especially in the case of Counter-Strike, which has often been seen as problematic to broadcast. Previous attempts, such as the Championship Gaming Series in 2007, tried to satisfy both mainstream viewers and hardcore faithful, but failed at both. The new approach—overseen by some of the biggest names in broadcasting—bodes well for the future of the game as a spectator experience.
“We are proud to establish a leadership position in this rapidly growing arena, which I see as a tent pole for the next chapter of TBS,” said Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT, chief creative officer for Turner. “The level of rabid fandom and engagement that we see in this world is extraordinary and we aim to up the experience for both the players and fans alike and provide a cutting-edge live experience on both linear and digital TBS platforms.”
The dates for the event, and the teams set to compete, have yet to be finalized. Sources at Turner say the network will not seek to lock players or teams into exclusivity contracts, and will look to work in conjunction with Valve and other industry organizations to ensure the competition conveniently slots into the existing esports landscape.
Image via Valve