As eSports Goes Mainstream, The CW Is the Latest TV Network to Get in the Game

It's no longer a niche product

Earlier this week, Adweek looked at how major TV networks like TBS and ESPN are riding the wave of eSports' growth into the mainstream. On Monday night, another big TV player will join them.

The CW will air the finale of Machinima's eSports docuseries Chasing the Cup. The third season of the series went behind the scenes in the lives of professional Mortal Kombat X players as they compete at the ESL Mortal Kombat X Pro League finals for a piece of the $100,000 purse. The first five episodes of the series have aired on The CW's digital platform, CW Seed. It's currently the most watched short-form series on the platform, third overall behind Mad TV and The OC. The one-hour finale will air Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

Like many multichannel networks these days, Machinima, a top five YouTube network with more than 3 billion monthly video views, is trying to diversify its distribution model. Two years ago, the gamer MCN rebranded and adopted a TV-facing strategy in an effort to appeal to a broader range of marketers as the gaming community expanded.

"You have a whole generation of people that grew up with gaming as a competition," said Daniel Tibbets, Machinima's chief content officer, noting that more women are getting involved in what's been a male-dominated genre. "It's big today because there is a much broader audience." Tibbets also pointed out that 40 percent of YouTube videos are about gaming.

The CW and Machinima are both backed by Warner Bros., but their similarities don't end at the corporate level.

"There's an interesting cross section between viewers of Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and those that play games," said Rick Haskins, evp of marketing and digital programs for The CW. "This isn't just a small niche product anymore—this is a big sport."