This article was published on April 17, 2012

CBS Interactive partners with Twitch.TV and Major League Gaming to form esports behemoth

CBS Interactive partners with Twitch.TV and Major League Gaming to form esports behemoth
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

This, ladies and gents, is huge. If you had a single doubt that esports was here to stay, drop it. The die has been cast.

In a simply stunning move, CBS Interactive, an online play, has at once locked in Major League Gaming and Twitch.TV as partners, taking over their ad sales, adding them to their broadcasting lineup, and more.

Who the heck?

Just to get you up to speed, here’s some help: Twitch.TV is the gaming-centered play from Justin.TV, that has grown massively since its birth. It now attracts over 16 million viewers every month; it’s been growing like a weed. Major League Gaming is a running circuit of online and offline tournaments that include the biggest esports events outside of Korea. It’s a huge name. As is Twitch.TV. For CBS Interactive to land them both at once is nothing short of stunning.

Now, let’s do the fine print so that we can get into just what CBS Interactive is up to. From the press release, here are the core terms of the deals that have been struck. Get some:

  • Partnership with TwitchTV: CBS Interactive has signed an exclusive partnership with TwitchTV, the world’s leading video game broadcasting network. Each month, TwitchTV attracts 16 million people from all over the world who tune in to watch other players, commentators, and live gaming competitions and events. CBSi Games, which now has a total reach of 25 million users watching almost 50 million hours of live gaming video per month, will exclusively sell advertising, promotions and sponsorships for this community.
  • Partnership with Major League Gaming (MLG): The world’s most prominent eSports league, Major League Gaming (MLG), has signed a partnership with CBS Interactive to be the exclusive online broadcaster of their Pro Circuit competitions, as well as for advertising representation. MLG is the world’s largest competitive video game league with over 15 million hours of live video served to fans during the 2011 Pro Circuit season, nearly 2,500 hours of live gaming competition scheduled in 2012, and thousands of the world’s best players competing at MLG events annually.

Get that jaw off the floor.

So what?

Now, why do you care? Here’s the deal: Twitch.TV and Major League Gaming (MLG) have built simply huge fan and user groups. I could dig deep into esports, and spend several paragraphs on this, but let it suffice to say that among the coveted young male demographic, the two companies control big positions.

However, every company has its strengths. MLG and Twitch are not advertising behemoths. Yes, they have had advertisers and sponsors, but they have never had massive depth. They have done well, commendably well, but the big ad budgets of the world often require a longer term connection. Enter CBS Interactive. Who better to monetize that well-formed audiences of the two companies than CBS?

Of course, there is more to this. By taking over broadcasting, CBS is boosting its brand, selling more ads against a greater audience, and as always, absorbing more eyeballs. MLG gets more total views, better ad rates, and Twitch.TV gets the same. It’s a win, win, win. I don’t see any downside to this deal, provided that CBS doesn’t make onerous programming demands on either firm.


Now, what’s interesting about all of this is that for some time in the esports community, people have discussed getting gaming onto the television. It has happened before. But what is great about this deal is that it takes the advertising power of CBS, a couples it to functional, albeit not flourishing esports companies.

Let me state that in another way, before anyone becomes flustered. MLG and Twitch are amazing, but they don’t have the ability to command advertiser attention like CBS can. One reason to get esports onto TV? A larger audience, and more ad dollars. CBS Interactive has both, and the content can live in its original format, ‘online friendly,’ online. Boom. How about that?

The vindication of this pudding is whether either firm has to change their content; if so, trouble could arise. The esports community is known as vitriolic and prone to riots. If the spirit of each firm lives on under an expanded aegis, well, that’s perfect. Time will tell. For now, get excited.

Update: The North American Star League was also added as a partner. It was omitted accidentally.

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