Turner Studios in Atlanta, GA knows sports. The studio has the longest running NBA game coverage program in the league with Inside the NBA, where professional analysts dissect everything there is to know about the sport. Turner is now taking their expertise with the NBA and applying it to the gaining popularity of eSports and creating ELEAGUE, a new professional gaming league that will cater to both the online community and television audiences with weekly broadcasts on Twitch and TBS.
The inaugural season will feature 24 teams playing one of gamings most popular and competitive multiplayers, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, across 10 weeks of competition for their chance at over $1 million in prize money and the fame that comes along with it. It’s going big right from the start, as evident by the $1.4 million purse on the line.
I took a tour of the new state-of-the-art facility at Turner Studios that will be the home of ELEAGUE for the foreseeable future. The first thing I noticed was how massive the set was; 10,000 square feet to be exact. That’s plenty of room for two teams, commentators, analysts, and over 200 live audience members each night. Not to mention the dozens of cameras that will capture all the action happening both on screen and on set. Turner Studios is bringing the same attention to detail and dedication it shows its NBA programs to the gaming and eSports platform.
There have been plenty of gaming championships and tournaments with large prize pools, but they have yet to crack mainstream audiences. Turner is aiming to change that with ELEAGUE. This is most evident by the fact that the series will be airing weekly on TBS, Fridays at 10pm ET. While that timeslot may be considered a “death slot” for your standard television show, it made the most sense for producers at TBS. It’s not too late for the east coast and not too early for the west coast. It’s the Goldilocks Zone for ELEAGUE. In addition to the Friday night television broadcasts, streaming service Twitch.tv will feature seven hours of digital content on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays dedicated to the core fans.
One of the aspects Turner Sports EVP & Chief Content Officer Craig Barry discussed with Shakefire was how ELEAGUE would cater to both casual and core audiences.
“Let’s think it’s a bullseye,” Barry says. “In the middle is the hardcore fan. The next ring is the casual fan. The next ring is probably the curious fan. So TBS will be the point of entry for all of those. At the core you’ll have the highest level of competition and authenticity. Then you may have a little deeper layer of a narrative around the players to make sure you’re engaging the casual fan who may not even know they’re an eSports fan. Then you have the curious fan who is stepping in for the first time and doesn’t know anything about eSports so we have to make sure we educate them. On TBS there may be a piece on how to play the game instead of just throwing them in like on Twitch. We would never run that on Twitch because we would insult the people on Twitch by running a three minute piece on how to play the game. Being conscience of all three of those audiences and understanding the point of entry for what we’re trying to accomplish. I always say not all platforms are created equal. Different content can be produced differently for different platforms.”
Barry is open to changing things around based on what does and doesn’t work, too. ELEAGUE plans to be a constantly evolving show on both TBS and Twitch. From hanging around the set and talking with all the people evolved, I could clearly see that this was something that was born out of a passion for gaming and not just some fast attempt at cashing in on what’s popular right now. Regardless, everyone will be picking through this debut season with a fine-tooth comb. Whatever the case, I think ELEAGUE has the potential to be something truly special given time.
“This is a marathon,” mentions Barry. “This isn’t a sprint.”