In the United States, it's been a long time coming. Videogames are a big deal here, but somehow professional gaming has never taken hold on television. Sure, sites like Twitch have given a rise in popularity but never in the mainstream.
This week TBS premiered ELEAGUE, both online and on television. Tuesday through Thursday we saw content online with the programming jumping to TBS Primetime on Friday. This isn't the first time we've seen a television network attempt to broadcast professional gaming, but previous attempts never quite felt serious. TBS however has definitely taken a different approach.
By pumping up the audience online during the week and then shifting to cable, they encouraged more people to view it. They brought in the best teams from around the world. They brought in announcers who knew what they were doing. They built sets and studios that are appropriate for the content. They even conduct floor interviews.
With all of that said, how did it go? In their first week they saw 92,000 concurrent viewers on Twitch during the week, and over 509,000 viewers on TBS Friday night. For a basic cable show at 10 PM on Friday night, a half a million viewers is great. For professional gaming on television that number is unbelievable.
They didn't just dominate in viewers either. They received over 700 million Twitter impressions during the week, with 360 million of those impressions being Friday night. Those social media numbers alone are worth being proud of.
The problem, of course, is that this was a look in audience. People wanted to see what ELEAGUE was going to be all about. Would the broadcast be good? Would it be worth watching long term? First week numbers are never a good indication of what's to come. However this is definitely specialized content. I can't imagine people stumbled across it on accident and stayed for an extended period. The people watching wanted to be there. The important question for TBS is will they be there again next week?