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.
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.