Viewership has been the backbone for esports since its inception. Esports went from garages to halls to eventually filling up stadiums, and one thing always remained – people were watching. Viewership for esports has remained largely online via streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube and more recently Facebook. The leap towards television is something which has been hiding in the wings for quite some time, but it wasn’t until Turner announced their ELEAGUE that television truly became an important factor in growing esports.
Locally, esports on television has been limited to reruns of ESL tournaments on SuperSport and the recent addition of GiNX TV on DSTV. Two companies in South Africa are currently related to television companies although their exact relationships are unknown. VS Gaming has had SuperSport on their banners and a few of their adverts have been seen on the channel, while Kwese’s relationship is more apparent in that the company is a service provider. In a brief conversation at rAge, head of Esports at Kwese Gamer, Brad Kirby mentioned to me that Kwese had seen astonishing numbers on their platforms but when pressed for a comment declined to answer. While this number would be extremely interesting, it’s understandable at this time that Kirby wishes to keep these numbers until official announcements are made. What this means, for everyone, is that television is starting to prove a valuable ally in South Africa’s esports growth.
I was inspired to write this piece after reading an editorial on Forbes titled: The Power of Backstories: How TV Can Help Humanize eSports. Despite his butchering of “eSports,” writer Alan Wolk touches on some important subjects including television’s ability to create backstories for esports, games, players and teams. Many teams in South Africa have been grinding in the trenches, struggling to make ends meet and the same could be said for players. Being a professional gamer in South Africa is still taboo and parents aren’t often welcoming to the fact that some young people want to be professional gamers. That time is slowly changing, but still pales in comparison to a discussion about being a professional footballer, or rugby player. I’m not saying the difference is that all week long we see sporting action on TV, but as Wolk’s article states – television can help to humanise esports. What does this mean exactly? Showing these tournaments for large prize pools, showing the documentaries and short videos on teams and players could create a great story for people to watch. There they will learn that esports is more than just playing games and wasting time, but instead is an actual career choice slowly landing in South Africa. For example, there are a few short videos created by VS Gaming which feature chats with players, such as this one:
VS Gaming played a number of other adverts on their main stage this weekend which impressed a number of expo-goers who commented on the likeness to conventional sports. Events like the rAge expo are a great start to introducing the general public to competitive gaming, but television will soon become the first stop for many parents and families who have wondered what their children are getting up to. It’s the crucial next step, and with it will come exposure and new fans which will inevitably aid the growth of esports in South Africa.
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Last Updated: October 13, 2017