UPDATE (March 22nd): Sky has begun broadcasting FIFA eSports coverage on Sky Sports 1 and online.
Previously it aired the Intel Extreme Masters CSGO tournament on Sky 2 only.
The broadcaster covered the FIFA Interactive World Cup in New York City this evening, where British player Sean “xL Dragon” Allen lost out to Mohamad Al-Bacha in a thrilling final. Al-Bacha clawed back to 3-3 in the last few minutes of the final game to turn around a 3-1 deficit and win the cup.
Al-Bacha won a trip to the Ballon d’or and $20,000, while Allen won $5,000 as runner-up.
The final was aired online here and on Sky One. As previously reported by eSports News UK (see below), Sky is providing a mix of TV and online coverage for eSports.
UPDATE (March 12th): eSports News UK understands that Sky will use a mix of TV and digital broadcasting for its eSports content in the future.
A senior source told us there will be more content from Sky to come, though it’s not clear whether or not Sky has a clear strategy in place yet or if it’s still testing the waters in this space.
Original story (published March 9th):
Sky aired its first eSports TV highlights programme earlier this week, and in doing so it’s gone down a road that could truly put competitive gaming on the map.
The show centered around the CSGO tournament in Katowice last weekend, and instead of making it a ‘what is’ style eSports documentary (which the BBC loves to make), it instead focused on match highlights and extensive gameplay footage.
This made the programme – which aired on Sky 2 on Monday at 10pm – similar to a Match of the Day style affair, with viewers able to sit back and just enjoy the games.
However, did it strike the right balance in providing footage for gamers while explaining it enough to the non-gaming fans?
I’m not sure, but it was a well presented and well produced piece that bodes well for the future of eSports on TV.
Millions of UK viewers watch Sky Sports every day, and Sky has the power to turn eSports into an even bigger industry on our shores – and abroad.
Sky has hired experienced host Matt Andrews (pictured above) as its eSports presenter, who hinted to eSports News UK that there will be more content coming soon.
— Matt Andrews (@Matt_Andrews) 8 March 2016
Whether Sky will take the plunge and cover more complex games for non-gamers to understand – such as League of Legends and Starcraft II – is another matter.
A Sky Sports spokesperson told Engadget that the highlight show ‘doesn’t signal a huge commitment to eSports coverage, but the broadcaster is well aware of the appetite for it’.
Veteran broadcaster Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner previously told me that broadcasters need to wake up to eSports.
Now that the likes of Sky, BBC and ESPN have woken from their slumber, what they do next will be paramount in helping eSports hit the mainstream.
You can view highlights from Sky’s first eSports TV show below:
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
A keen League player and WoW RPer, he has written for a range of publications including Games TM, Nintendo Official Magazine, games industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games. He currently works as full-time content director for the British Esports Association.