SBJ/April 16-22, 2012/Media

CBS Interactive aligns with video gaming operations

CBSSports.com parent company CBS Interactive is making a significant push into competitive video gaming, also known as eSports, striking deals to align with several major operators in the quickly emerging space.

San Francisco-based CBS Interactive has struck exclusive partnerships with two
eSports online communities, the Austria-based Own3D, and another San Francisco outlet, TwitchTV. CBS Interactive will serve as a sales and business development entity for both outlets.

CBS Interactive has also partnered with two of the major eSports properties, the established, New York-based Major League Gaming, and the upstart North American Star League, formed last year and based in California. In addition to serving in a similar sales and business development role, CBS Interactive will be the exclusive online broadcaster for MLG’s Pro Circuit tournament events.

While eSports carries little mainstream recognition compared with established stick-and-ball sports properties, the category boasts a rabid, engaged fan base among males ages 18-34 that are highly coveted by corporate advertisers. The audience has shown a tendency to consume large amounts of content online, as average viewing times for on-demand eSports videos routinely exceed 20 minutes, compared with less than three minutes a clip for other genres. Live eSports events regularly post even higher metrics.

“This is a hyper-engaged, hyper-social audience,” said Fouad ElNaggar, CBS Interactive senior vice president of strategy and corporate development. “There’s a huge opportunity for us to win this space. We want to own the category.”

CBS Interactive will broadcast MLG’s Pro Circuit events online.
Photo by: MAJOR LEAGUE GAMING
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deals are generally based around revenue-sharing agreements. The alignments will be combined with CBS Interactive’s own online video gaming property, GameSpot.

For the 10-year-old MLG, the CBS Interactive alignment will provide additional distribution and scale for a property that already generated more than 3.5 million unique video stream viewers in 2011 for its Pro Circuit competitions, 225 percent above the year before, and more than 15 million hours of video viewed.

“We talked with several groups, and CBS was the clear fit for us,” said Sundance DiGiovanni, MLG co-founder and chief executive. “I can’t just hire 30 salespeople and immediately get them up to speed to represent us, and nor would I want to. So there’s an instant boost in manpower with CBS coming on board. But this is much more than just a sales or distribution agreement. This is a true partnership, and we’re both invested in the future success of the league.”


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