ESPN recently announced that they will be airing an esports tournament during the opening ceremony and kick-off of Super Bowl 51. Because of a partnership with Electronic Arts, a FIFA 17 tournament will be taking the place of the beginning of Super Bowl 51. It’ll be the start of a season for the tournament and will be going on to broadcast in 7 other cities from now until May.
“We’re trying to line ourselves up so that we’re covering the event when the event’s happening. The idea that we’re putting it up against the Super Bowl really has nothing to do with the Super Bowl itself,” aid John Lasker, vice president of ESPN Programming and Acquisition. Lasker believes that the audience for the Paris Regional Final is different than that of the Super Bowl, and that “the bar for viewership and ratings on TV, while things are ramping up for the Super Bowl, is relatively low.” -ESPN
Although ESPN does agree that the viewership for the FIFA tournament will pale in comparison to the annual football event, it is also believed that this is a big step for esports and that because the tournament is a sports game, it’ll click more with ESPN’s core audience and widen viewership in the long run with it being easier to understand unlike the other MOBAs and fighting games that have also been aired on ESPN and their subsidiary channels.
The FIFA tournament that is airing during the Super Bowl will be a one-hour, tape delay broadcast (as it is coming from Paris) running from 6-7pm EST, while the Super Bowl is scheduled to kickoff around 6:30pm EST. This won’t be the only leg of the tournament that is aired, but it won’t be on ESPN’s main channel for the remainder of the tournament. Instead, the remainder of the tournament will be on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. It wouldn’t be an esport however without any form of online broadcast, as the tournament will also be streamed on it’s respective Twitch and YouTube streams.
The full schedule will be posted below:
- Saturday, Feb. 4 (Paris): Live at noon on ESPN Deportes & ESPN3
- Sunday, Feb. 5 (Paris): 6-7 p.m. ESPN (tape delay)
- Saturday, Feb. 11 (Sydney): Live at 3 a.m. on ESPN Deportes & ESPN3, 7 a.m. on ESPN2 (tape delay)
- Sunday, Feb. 19 (Miami): Live at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
- Saturday, April 8 (Vancouver): Live at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
- Saturday, April 22 (Singapore): Live at 6 a.m. on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
- Saturday, May 6 (Madrid): Live at 11 a.m. on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
- Saturday, May 20 (Berlin – Grand Final): Live at 11 a.m. on ESPN2 & ESPN Deportes
On top of the FIFA tournament, it was announced on Thursday of this week that ESPN Brazil is partnering up with ESL Brazil to air a number of esports such as: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Clash Royale. They will be streaming these events for 5 days a week, and will total around 200 hours of esport programming a year, along with 105+ events being streaming on WatchESPN and ESPN+.