Super Channel, a Canadian premium cable network with four channels, will be dedicating one of them to 24-hour esports content thanks to a deal with the U.K.-based GINX eSportsTV, according to an announcement Wednesday.
The news that a movie channel was going all-in on esports coverage was unexpected, but Super Channel chief operating officer Don McDonald says they've been interested in the scene since the company restructured in May.
Looking for a way to differentiate themselves from competitors, they came in contact with GINX, who were looking for a way into the Canadian market.
"So, [recognizing] that esports is becoming huge, we want to expand our demographic," McDonald told theScore esports. "Currently Super Channel has primarily a demographic of 45 and over, and we're looking for content that's going to have entertainment value for the whole family." McDonald said they're hoping to appeal to both Millennials and their parents.
"There's a lot of Millennials now who are still living at home and having a channel — an all esports channel — that is on a linear service that you can watch on your big screen TV with broadcast quality 24-hours a day, including all types of live gaming events and interesting esports-related content so that is going to be of great interest to the Millennials and certainly to the 35-45 year-olds."
GINX TV: Canada in the cross hairs
Originally a more traditional television channel, GINX TV shifted its focus to esports in June as part of a partnership with SKY and ITV. Since adopting esports, they broadcast to 36 million households in 41 territories. In addition to coverage of tournaments and leagues like the Esports Championship Series, Ginx also has original programming including shows like Videogame Nation and eSports Explained.
According to Ginx's CEO, Michiel Bakker, the Great White North is a growing esports market that they've had their eye one for some time.
"Canada has long been in our sights," he said in a statement. "It consistently represents a global top 10 eSports nation and is home to great eSports competitions and competitors. We are over the moon to soon be able to reach out to them."
McDonald agrees esports is an untapped market in Canada, with great potential for growth outside the traditional male, Millennial demographic.
Going beyond the young male demographic
"Esports is more male skewing, but certainly, I am a big fan of wanting to introduce diversity into our programming and such and I think this is a great opportunity," he continued. "So I think, you know, there's a lot of great female gamers out there and through Super Channel perhaps we can be able to develop some content to help motivate that."
While the idea that 35-45 year-olds would be interested in an esports channel might go against conventional wisdom, McDonald says Super Channel's research showed some surprising results from that demographic.
"As we were doing our esports analysis, well you know something, this phenomenon is not restricted to the young. There's a lot of old people that are gamers," he said.
While GINX will be taking care of most of the channel's programming, including broadcast rights for tournaments and events, Canadian content requirements require a certain amount of the channel's content to be Made-in-Canada.
McDonald says Super Channel is dedicated to developing a slew of original, Canadian programming that they hope will be successful in GINX's international markets, including, perhaps, a reality show.
"We'll be going into development mode, going out to the production community, and wanting to develop esports-related content. That could lead to documentaries, it could be featuring Canadian gamers, profiles and things of that sort. Maybe even a reality series."
Rather than developing content purely to meet the requirements, McDonald says this initiative provides an opportunity for the Canadian esports community to share their work with the world.
"We shouldn't produce it just because we have to, we need to produce great content, great stories that we can tell and export around the world. And this is what I'm hoping we can do with this," he said.
Esports on TV: A question mark
While video game-related TV has proved a risky proposition in the past with the dissolution of G4 in 2014 and less-than-stellar ratings in esports events broadcast on TV, McDonald says the success of ELEAGUE on Turner Broadcasting inspired Super Channel to take things a step further.
"They have their Friday night esports night and to bring a channel that's totally 24/7, it was certainly helped inspire us to look in that regard," McDonald said.
"Because, the thing is, we wanted to be something totally unique and distinct that will set Super Channel apart from the rest of the channel offerings in this field."
However, on the topic of whether there's an appetite for esports TV instead of Twitch viewing, McDonald says some people might prefer more polished content than the live-stream experience.
"Well, as you know, Twitch is, I want to refer to it as — and I hope I don't offend anyone at Twitch — as the wild, wild west of esports. Because, you can get a lot of content on there, there's streaming for hours and things of that sort," he said.
"GINX will have rights for certain sports and they will package that in with announcers and game analysis and maybe they take a two or three day event and package that into really good packaged content that an esports fan will enjoy."
While no exact date was given, GINX is set to launch in Canada in either the spring or summer.
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