Thanks in part to the popularity of Twitch streaming, eSports are moving closer to the mainstream, and TV networks are beginning to take notice. Now the CW is hoping that the same audience that made Arrow and The Flash popular will also be interested eSports.
To start, CW has picked up the rights to air Machinima’s Chasing the Cup, which follows players competing in ESL’s Mortal Kombat X tournament. The first five episodes of the series, which will air as Mortal Kombat X: Machinima’s Chasing the Cup, will be shown on the streaming-only CW Seed.
The final episode, which focuses on the championship of the ESL Mortal Kombat X Pro League Finals where players face off over a $100,000 prize pool, will air on the channel proper, Variety reports. This is not only a first for the channel, but a first for eSports, as until now they have only been aired on cable-only networks like ESPN.
CW is treading lightly in this first outing, and seems to be looking at this as more of a test than anything. “We’re testing to see if this could be ‘sports for CW,’” executive VP of marketing and digital programs Rick Haskins told Variety.
Despite the network’s hopes that eSports could appeal to its audience, it doesn’t want to overwhelm them at first. This is why the channel is airing Machinima’s Chasing the Cup instead of the actual final. “The actual event is eight hours long,” Haskins said. “God love ’em, but I didn’t want to do eight hours of that on TV.”
It seems 2016 could be a big year for eSports. Earlier this month ESPN began hosting dedicated eSports coverage on its website, while TBS announced it would be airing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments.
The special will air on the CW on Monday, February 15 at 8 pm ET, and the first few episodes of Mortal Kombat X: Machinima’s Chasing the Cup are available now at CW Seed.