Gaming-centric multi-platform production company Machinima is going ESPN with “Inside eSports,” a seven-day-a-week “SportCenter”-style show covering the latest news, highlights and analysis from the biggest tournaments.
The news was revealed today by Machinima CEO Chad Gutstein at MIP in Cannes, France.
On Friday, Gutstein told VideoInk that “Inside eSports” will post content “every day across all the major social platforms.” It’s primary outlet will be Verizon’s Go90. Gutstein said that the content could also be formatted for a weekly linear television show of up to an hour in length. It will have a soft launch in May, with a full-fledged debut the following month.
“Inside eSports” will be similar in spirit to Machinima’s daily digital shows “Inside Gaming” and “ETC,” the latter of which focus on fandom and pop culture.
Machinima is ancient by online video standards. It was founded in 2000, in the midst of the dot-com boom, as a website (Machinima.com) designed to be a resource for video makers involved in the gaming industry. It began covering covering the esports world years ago, long before mainstream show business and brands knew or cared about the niche.
“They still don’t understand it, but they now know that they need to and they need to be there,” Gutstein said.
With esports viewership up more than 100% over the past two years, many traditional industry players have been stepping up to feed the public’s increasing hunger for content. In recent months, Yahoo and ESPN.com (in partnership with T-Mobile) have debuted esports verticals, and last October IGN launched “Esports Weekly with Coca-Cola,” a 30-minute esports recap show that premieres new episodes every Friday.
Gutstein (pictured, left) professed to be unfazed by the competition.
“This audience has one the greatest bullshit detectors of any audience in the world,” he said. “If you show up and you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re not really authentic and you try to take an audience that is not a traditional sports-loving audience and treat them as less-than, as ESPN has done, referring to esports as a competition like chess and not a real sport, and you try to think you know everything about esports because you know everything about sports, you’re going to fall on your face.”
Machinima’s recent esports efforts include “Training Camp,” a reality series taking fans inside the world of Starcraft that launched in March, and “Mortal Kombat X: Machinima’s Chasing the Cup,” which streamed on CW Seed and aired its season finale as a one-hour special on network parent The CW on Feb. 15.
“It held The CW’s ratings against the Grammys on Monday night at 8 o’clock and delivered an esports audience to do it, which no one else has done,” said Gutstein of “Chasing the Cup.” “It was very smart of the CW to take that risk, because they recognized that the overlap between their audiences on their fandom content like ‘The Arrow’ and ‘Flash’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ had a high propensity to be interested in esports.”
Although Gutstein is generally dismissive of the competition as Johnny-come-latelys, he respects the moves being made by Turner Broadcasting, which later this year will launch E-League, a professional esports league formed in partnership with WME/IMG that will stream 30 hours of competition weekly on digital platforms, as well as have linear TV broadcasts of its matches on TBS. (Turner is owned by Time Warner, which has made a series big investments in Machinima.)
“They know a lot about how to make great traditional sports and production, and I think they’ve partnered with people who understand [esports],” said Gutstein of Turner.
Gutstein said that while Machinima is dedicated to covering every aspect of the esports world, it will not be broadcasting the competitions themselves.
“That is not our business,” he said. “We’re storytellers. Machinima’s voice is the voice of the super fan, made accessible to the noob or anybody. We’re going to focus on news, analysis and behind-the scenes, because that’s what we’re really good at.”