But the leading sports network is airing something rather peculiar on Sunday: A video game competition.
Perhaps even more notably, the network’s cable station ESPN2 will air a 30-minute preview show for the tournament’s final match on Sunday at 8:30 PT. That segment will include highlights and analysis, in addition to interviews with players and Valve CEO Gabe Newell.
ESPN’s coverage speaks to the growing interest in e-sports. ESPN has dabbled in video games with shows like Madden Nation and has partnered with organizations like Major League Gaming. But this is certainly the first time the station is broadcasting a non-sports related gaming tournament, let alone taking 30 minutes of a primetime Sunday night slot to air a video game tournament preview show.
“From the success of the Compendium to the collaboration with ESPN, this year’s International really demonstrates how much competitive gaming has grown to rival traditional sports,” Valve’s Erik Johnson said in a statement.
The tournament, also known as “The International,” kicks off at Seattle’s Key Arena on Friday and runs through Monday. There is a record-breaking prize pool of $10 million — up from just $2.8 million last year — which is the largest ever for a competitive gaming tournament.