Commentary

ESPN Ends Daily News Coverage Of Esports, But Who Cares?

Almost every metric I've seen about esports shows that its audience has grown substantially in the past decade, even exceeding the viewership for traditional sports, such as hockey, baseball and basketball. Somehow, that viewership hasn't translated into mainstream acceptance, as ESPN's recent decision to stop providing daily coverage of esports indicates.

The network confirmed the move in comments to the Esports Observer, which reported that several reporters and editors who covered esports had already left ESPN. The network has been coping with the negative effects of the pandemic on advertising revenue and viewership of all live sports, not just matches between videogame teams. Last week, the network also laid off 300 people and said another 200 open positions wouldn't be filled.

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ESPN wouldn't be the first sports news organization to cut back on esports coverage. Two years ago, British tabloid The Daily Mail fired two reporters who had been dedicated to covering esports full-time. One of the reporters said the newspaper was looking for ways reduce editorial costs.

It's unlikely there will be much demand for coverage unless esports organizations do a better job at turning their players into household names, if that's even possible. Athletes in traditional sports are typically admired for their physical prowess, which can be measured with all kinds of arcane statistics. Ultimately, winning is the most important benchmark.

In esports, the ultimate benchmark appears to be tournament winnings. By that measure, the highest-earning esports player last year was Johan Sundstein from Denmark, who made more than $3 million for his efforts, according to Esports Earnings. You could be forgiven if you've never heard of him.

It's hard to find an esports player who has achieved much fame beyond the gaming community. Right now, the most well-known player of video games is Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, but he's basically a lone wolf who livestreams his gameplay on Twitch or YouTube. He makes a reported $500,000 a month for those efforts.

Until the esports industry does a better job of marketing itself and gives more people a reason to care about its teams and players, it's unlikely esports will ever merit much news coverage.

1 comment about "ESPN Ends Daily News Coverage Of Esports, But Who Cares?".
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  1. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, November 13, 2020 at 10:33 a.m.

    "Somehow, that viewership hasn't translated into mainstream acceptance, as ESPN's recent decision to stop providing daily coverage of esports indicates."

    It's really sad that a publication like MediaPost, a publication that is supposed to be a reliable source for news on the industry, is totally clueless on how and who covers esports.  ESPN blew it because it took its traditional approach to sports coverage and forcibly applied it to an audience that has been rejecting that form of coverage for 10 years+.  While ESPN Esports was sucking wind trying to connect with the audience, Dexerto.com has seen exponential growth and now boasts 20 million uniques with almost 10 million followers across social. And Dexerto has plenty of competitors.

    The "mainstream" audience is watching esports and all viewership numbers indicate that esports kicks traditional sports' ass in many ways.  The mainstream audience is looking for and consuming esports coverage content.  The issue is not with the mainstream audience, the issue is that mainstream, old school publications like MediaPost, WSJ, USAToday, etc. have no idea where to look to understand who is covering the space and how it's covering the space.  20 million uniques is not a needle in a haystack.


    Until MediaPost does a better job of researching and reaching out to leaders in the esports industry and asking the right questions, it's unlikely its readers will ever understand esports' current and future potential.  ESPN is struggling with its traditional sports coverage, so it should not have come to a surprise that it couldn't figure out how to cover the world of esports.

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