Disney is on a roll right now when it comes to TV content. First, they’re planning on creating their own streaming service, after ending their deal with Netflix. And now, they are going to get a huge influx of eSports content. Both Disney and ESPN, I should clarify. Through a new multiyear deal announced this weekend, the two networks will broadcast a number of Madden NFL tournaments as well as an episodic series featuring Madden NFL 18 Ultimate League players. This is super interesting, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve got to the point where eSports are almost as popular as “real” sports. (Forgive the use of “real” in this instance. I’m not saying eSports aren’t, but I’m having a hard time articulating the difference between the two.)
I think it’s great if I’m being honest. There are two very clear ideas coming out of this deal. One I’ve already mentioned – which is this huge amount of eSports content coming to mainstream TV. But the other is the way that we consume media. I’ve always said that this is changing in huge ways. And this is just another example of what that could mean. In a Statement, Todd Sitrin, EA’s competitive gaming division general manager said:
“Through this collaboration with ESPN and Disney XD, we’ll provide ongoing coverage for fans worldwide across a variety of ESPN and Disney platforms, but also digitally through our own Madden streaming and social channels.”
The competition will kick off when ESPNEWS airs the Madden NFL 18 Club Championship quarterfinals. The tournament is taking place at the Pro Bowl and features players repping all 32 NFL teams. The Club Championship finals will then take place at the Super Bowl Experience on February 1st and will air on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Starting February 2nd, Disney XD and ESPN video on demand will air Madden NFL 18 Ultimate League regular season competitions, which pit 16 Madden NFL 18 players against each other in one-on-one competitions. Episodes will air weekly and be one hour long. The Madden Ultimate League Championship final will air from the NFL draft on April 28th and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Starting in April, ESPN2 will air half-hour weekly episodes featuring Ultimate League players, giving viewers a look into their lives and how they prepare for and handle the League competitions. The series will run from April 3rd to May 1st. Is this good news? What will this mean for the NFL? I think the answer to both of those questions is a positive answer. eSports is a way to enhance the way that people consume traditional sports. Take, for example – my brother plays an MLB game on his PS4. Right now, there aren’t any baseball games on, but I know that when the season starts, he will watch the actual games. So I feel like these two concepts can work in tandem.
Not only that, it would give people the ability to watch other games, rather than just playing their own. That’s not to say it’s more fun, but sometimes these people are a lot better than you are when it comes to gameplay. Overall, I definitely think that this is an enhancement for the sports industry, and I suspect we will see more and more of this coming out in the next couple of years.