Saturday, December 12, 2015

Turner Sports' ELeague Could Spark Other New Ventures

While ESPN seems to be in a declining state at the moment, Turner Sports is adapting to television's ever-changing climate.

In the past couple of years Turner has decided not to renew NASCAR rights in order to continue their NBA deal, broadcasted the Final Four on Snapchat, expanded video content on Bleacher Report, invested in virtual reality/fantasy sports, and launched a new athlete POV brand with LeBron James. All of these moves have been done in order to combat television's biggest struggle at the moment - reaching a younger audience.

But their most interesting move yet is about to launch in the New Year. Bringing e-sports to the small screen. Digiday says:

Next summer, Turner and Hollywood talent agency WME-IMG will kick off the “ELeague,” a professional video gaming league. TBS will air weekly three-hour competitions during two 10-week seasons. It is pairing that coverage with 30 hours of digital content every week of daily competitions, behind-the-scenes coverage and profiles of the teams and players.
This will not be the first time Turner Sports has dabbled into videogames. The latest version of NBA 2K16 features Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O'Neal as in studio commentators. Since Turner already has a base of basketball fans who watch NBA games on TNT or watch NBA TV, you have to wonder whether NBA 2K will be one of ELeague's next feature games.

2K Sports already has an established online television presence through their NBA 2KTV YouTube channel (which the Inside the NBA crew has made appearances on) as well as Twitch. Turner would have a place to stream digital content based on an NBA 2K ELeague if it were to come to fruition.

Turner will be showing off their new league at next year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with a live tournament which will be streamed on Twitch. CES is a technology convention where hundreds of companies release their new products or announce new ideas they're working on. Even though it is closed to the public, gaming and technology fans typically follow the ongoings of the event very closely through social media which makes it such a smart move for Turner to make its presence known at this annual event.

A sports business forum sponsored by Turner Sports will also be held at CES, the company's first foray into live events.
The inaugural Sports Business Forum, presented by Turner Sports – in partnership with NextVR, CTA and Foxrock Partners – will bring together leading executives and personalities to discuss innovations associated with the in-person viewing experience and general consumption of sports content.  - See more at: 
Live events have become a new trend among publications such as Re/Code and New York Times aiming to innovate the way readers consume news. With the kind of access Turner has into the worlds of basketball, baseball and beyond; it might be a smart idea to continue holding live events in the future because it is not an avenue ESPN, CBS, FOX or NBC seem to be pursuing.

Bleacher Report would be able to increase the live streaming content available on their site and they might even able to draw more high-brow consumers who would typically watch CNBC, read CNN Money and are interested in what sports executives and disruptors have to say about the future of sports. This would also help B/R draw a new kind of advertiser to their brand. Eventually, if streamed live events are successful and buzzworthy enough, maybe the formula moves to television.

As much as television companies embrace DVR and streaming nowadays, there's no doubt in my mind they would gravitate to a new kind of programming which provides fans with the ability to have a live interactive experience with the future leaders of sports whether they are executives or the athletes themselves.

It has not been announced whether Turner's upcoming live event will be streamed online. In past years, keynote speakers and major panels from CES have been streamed on the convention's website and YouTube channel known as CES TV. CES will most likely control any streaming happening from their event but I think it would be a really good idea for Turner to continue experimenting with live events on its own platforms in the future.

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