Sportsnet gets into esports with ESL partnership

A big audience of gamers draws in Sportsnet NOW and Sportsnet 360.

There are 19 million people in Canada that identify as gamers, according to a release from Rogers Media, and the company is aiming to tap into that market by partnering with major esports league, ESL.

Rogers Media has acquired the exclusive Canadian rights to esportsTV, which ESL is launching this fall. Content from the channel will live on its mobile app Sportsnet NOW in Canada. And beginning this July, Sportsnet 360 will air a weekly esports news, highlights and analysis show from ESL.

Jason Badal, senior director, business affairs, Sportsnet, said the potential for advertising around the Sportsnet NOW content is still being worked out, but full ad inventory will of course be part of the Sportsnet 360 deal.

Esports is a space that Badal said Sportsnet has been looking at off-and-on for a couple years, and more seriously in the past year. The partnership with ESL was the right fit, he said, because of the credibility the network has with gamers.

“We are looking at eSports as something that we know has an audience,” said Badal. “In terms of what it can lead to, we are going to have to wait and see. When there’s an audience that big you have to pay attention to it.”

Badal also said that Canada and Toronto “punch above its weight” in terms of the numbers and quality of esports players in the country, which added to the appeal.

“This is our way of getting in front of something big and something that Canadians seem to care about, especially young Canadians,” he said.

Rogers’ deal follows an announcement from Super Channel that it had partnered with digital entertainment company Ginx eSportsTV to launch a new 24-hour esports and competitive gaming channel. A launch date for that channel wasn’t given, but was expected to be in the spring or summer.