NBCLX Adds ESports To Programming
Esports just got a little less niche.
Starting today, NBCLX will provide esports programming from ESR, a U.S. 24/7 esports channel. There will be docuseries, talk shows and tournaments, with industry stars and average gamers alike.
The content airs for free on LX.com without a required log in. It can also be seen on linear TV in 43 U.S. markets, cable and digital platforms like Roku and Apple TV, as well as YouTube TV and Fubo TV, through NBC-owned station apps.
To some, watching others play video games on TV might remind them of simpler days, waiting for a sibling or friend to finish their turn. But to many who help compose coveted young demographics, esports is as engaging, if not more so, than those in real life — or perhaps more fittingly, “IRL.”
“NBC is obviously a really big brand, and LX is a great fit for esports content because their focus is millennials and a younger generation,” says Wendy Wang, CEO of ESR. “The content we have on the network not only is high quality, but we try to target that gaming audience and bring them entertainment that’s currently not available on major TV networks.”
For example, as part of the LX programming launch, viewers can tune in to Thanksgaming. On the show, according to a statement, “sibling rivals, punchy cousins and former best friends duke it out in a series of video game competitions married with trivia questions.” In the final round, the contestants vie for “the chance to be named ‘Grandma’s Favorite.’ ”
Holiday Smash, which begins airing on Dec. 11, will have friends and family engage in holiday-themed challenges “to see if they have what it takes to be ‘Santa’s Little Helper.’ ” On Toast with the Most — premiering Dec. 28 — esports champions battle for bragging rights to the titular title.
Additional new programming will be rolled out in 2021, but more immediately a show dubbed Age of Coronavirus will splay interviews with esport personalities, discussing how they’ve dealt with life in a pandemic.
“We thought it was very pertinent to find out what everybody [in the esports community] was thinking and feeling,” says Chase Kuertz, host of Age of Coronavirus, which debuts Nov. 22. Among the topics discussed are the “concern about the future of esports, as far as competitions and conventions,” he says, as well as the intersection of esports and betting.
“It just got us talking a lot about, ‘How does esports configure in a world where it’s all going digital?’ And coronavirus is part of that,” Kuertz adds. “It’s speeding up the process, and it’s accelerating at such a pace that a lot of people outside of esports are having a hard time keeping up with it.”
Apparently aside from conversations about high-stakes global issues, gamers tune in to esports for tips on how to navigate levels, conquer bosses and achieve general greatness within a console. Kuertz says the esports appeal is also attributed to the accessibility of video games.
“They use their mind to win a game rather than their muscles,” Kuertz says of the players. “The physical advantages are completely done away with. It’s more a battle of wits.”
But esports is also big business — increasingly so for broadcasters.
Spurred in part by lockdown circumstances that came compliments of the pandemic, ESR has enjoyed watching its audience grow “dramatically,” according to Wang. “We have seen increased demand from broadcasters around the world that are eager to distribute our 24/7 channel or license our programming.”
“LX is a network that has two objectives,” says Matt Goldberg, VP of content strategy at NBCLX. “The first is to appeal to younger audiences, but it’s also to experiment and try new ways of doing television differently, both news and programming.”
He says that LX was attracted to ESR because its content “tells the story of gamers,” who are ordinary people, which gives the programming a default local element.
“This really is the first step for us, not just in programming but also even in our news coverage, in covering the story of gamers and the industry,” Goldberg says. “Millions of people are watching NBCLX [and] we think this will help create more desire to watch the network.”