Turner is betting big on eSports.
That much was apparent on GeekWire’s recent trip to Atlanta, Ga., where we visited Turner Studios to learn more about how the broadcasting giant is investing in competitive gaming.
We toured the sets for Turner’s traditional sports shows like Inside the NBA and MLB on TBS, checking out the cool technology and infrastructure that makes the production possible. But what really caught our attention was the 10,000 square-foot arena that hosts ELEAGUE, a new eSports organization formed by Turner and WME | IMG that launched this past May.
It’s here where professional gamers sit with their teammates at opposite ends of the set, battling it out on individual computers with popular games like Counter Strike and Overwatch. There is a table in the middle for the play-by-play and a color commentator, along with several rows of seating for a live audience.
There are 26 cameras, including 12 for POV perspectives of each player. There is also a JitaCam, which hangs from the ceiling and can capture 360-degree views of the entire floor.
It’s a full-on production, complete with staffers working in the back rooms to manage sound, graphics, and more for the show.
Here’s what it looks like to viewers at home watching on TBS or via Twitch:
Turner also built a custom eSports office space and training facilities for competing teams.
Turner first aired a 10-week Counter Strike: Global Offensive tournament from May until July, with several top eSports teams competing for a total prize pool of $1.4 million. The show, which aired weekly on TV and online, reached nearly 19 million viewers on TBS — including 3.4 million “new” viewers — and 25 million live video streams on Twitch. Turner said it saw big spikes in viewership from men in the 18-to-34 year old range. It also landed sponsors like Arby’s, Credit Karma, and Buffalo Wild Wings.
In September, Turner aired The Overwatch Open, a six-day tournament with a $300,000 prize pool, marking the largest Overwatch competition to date.
ELEAGUE debuted the second season of Counter Strike: Global Offensive during the same month; the playoff rounds kick off this week. It will also host a Counter Strike: Global Offensive major championship Jan. 22-29 from Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
ELEAGUE is an ambitious attempt to bring eSports to traditional TV and apply professional production infrastructure to competitive gaming. It’s fascinating to see how the production compares to other live sports. The global eSports market is nearing $1 billion, and more than 200 million people will watch competitive gaming this year. It’s easy to see why Turner and WME | IMG are investing in this space.
Check out more photos from our visit to Turner Studios below: