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Turner exec says eSports 'brought a lot of new viewers to TV'

ELEAGUE,the professional organization formed in partnership between andtalent agency WME/IMG, modified its second season to spark even more interestin the fledgling eSportscircuit.

ChristinaAlejandre, general manager and vice president of eSports, ELEAGUE, toldattendees at the New York Media Festival onSept.  28 that the circuit's 10-weekrookie run, featuring 24 elite Counter Strike: Global Offensive teams, reachedsome 19 million viewers on TBS (US) on Friday nights from May through July,including 3.4 million new network watchers.

Gamepublisher Valve’s first-person shooter game, with squads from the U.S.,Canada, Denmark, , Australia,Sweden, Brazil andSlovakia, playedbefore live audiences from a state-of-the-art arena at Turner Studios inAtlanta.

Alejandresaid ELEAGUE — also presented via Twitch, Inc.'s video game, live-streaming website —boosted TBS' time-slot delivery among the 18-to-34 demographic by 95%.

“ELEAGUEbrought a lot of new viewers to TV,” said Alejandre, who noted some olderwatchers, perhaps parents of eSports enthusiasts, were also drawn to thetelecasts.

Thecircuit is shortening its second season because there was some “fatigue infront of and behind the cameras and with players and teams,” according toAlejandre. They opened the sophomore season up to more competitors aspreliminary rounds were staged digitally in Europe and the U.S. earlier thismonth. Alejandre noted that there were upsets as some teams that participatedin the first season did not advance.

TBSwill initiate coverage of a four-week group stage competition Oct. 21 at 10p.m. ET. Semifinal action will air Dec. 2, beginning in the aforementionedhour, with the championship slated for the following day at 4 p.m. ET.Alejandre said there also will be specials looking at the teams and players andother developments in the eSports community.

Inan interview after the presentation, Alejandre said that, as part of along-term deal between the partners, a third season is in the works, but shecould not disclose any particulars at this time. She said Turner Sports is “allin” on ELEAGUE, stating its commitment is on par with other properties on itsroster, including the NBA, MLB and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Shesaid with Turner’s international partnerships, plus work by WME/IMG in securingTV deals, the second season will have an expanded presence worldwide.  

Akey consideration during the inaugural season was how a large media companylike Turner would be perceived within the established gaming community.Alejandre acknowledged that there were concerns about whether Turner would“TV-fy” the sport, but feedback so far from fans has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Similarly,there was apprehension about potential negative reactions to sponsors, butfears were allayed, she said. Official marketing partners this season includeDomino’s, Credit Karma, Arby’s, Hyper X and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Infact, over the course of the first season, Buffalo Wild Wings restaurantsbecame home to viewing parties. Arby's, meanwhile, Alejandre said, garneredsupport on TwitterInc. and received cheers from the live audiences in Turner Studiosfor the dedicated creative in its commercials, and more notably for brandedcontent featured under the “Locked and Loaded” heading.

Thosevignettes showcasedplayers from teams taking aim at sandwiches at a shooting range. The Reubenworked best with its sauerkraut explosions, she said. Subsequentresearch revealed that Arby’s scored double-digit amelioration relative tobrand awareness, likeability and intent to purchase.

“Theysuccessfully integrated their sponsorship in a natural way,” Alejandre said.