Sky TV launches a pop-up UK esports channel - but is that really a good thing?
It sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? A pop-up esports channel backed by one of the biggest media companies in the country. From next week on, Sky will be broadcasting GINX esport TV for three months. GINX is based in London and is pretty well-known amongst fans.
It covers a mix of tournaments, news, analyses, recaps, player-profiles, behind-the-scenes coverage and any other esports events you can think of. It sounds pretty good, and Sky adding it to their package (even just for 3 months) can easily bring esports to a wider audience…or can it?
There is one problem with this plan: There are already plenty of broadcasters that show or stream esports content, including Twitch or YouTube, both of which have something in common: They’re free.
Just about every esports event out there can be viewed online for free – Sky customers pay a premium for their services, and they are still littered with ads. This makes it incredibly unlikely that new customers will join Sky because of their efforts to get in on the esports game. There are already a few channels that cover esports in the full Sky lineup, but the partnership with GINX probably isn’t going to make a big difference.
Existing Sky customers may or may not make use of the new service, but odds are, if they already were esports fans, they also already found ways to watch the content they are interested in. Experts agree on the questionable nature of Sky’s decision – “It’s an interesting experiment to see if people are prepared to pay,” says NZ eSports Federation president Ben Lenihan of Sky’s move.
“The popular thinking is, esports will always have to be free,” Lenihan says. “[Fans] can watch it on YouTube, Twitch – they usually don’t have a paywall in front of them. It will be interesting to see how GINX will go with international content which is already available online.”
NZ Game Development Association Chairman Michael Vermeulen said: “You’ve got a bunch of games streaming at the same time and you’ve got a lot of choice. I imagine a Sky esports channel would be quite curated but, at the same time, I think it’s great that Sky is doing this because they’ve got all the sports, and it just kind of legitimatises esports as an actual sport out in the world.”
Additionally he said: “I see it more as Sky has seen an opportunity here and jumped on it. I don’t think it will make a difference for Twitch, per se, I know very few people under the age of 40 that have a Sky subscription, so it certainly seems like something they want to try out. People going to pubs or wherever to watch sports on Sky – it won’t be long until people are doing that for esports as well.”
He’s definitely right – this new move won’t impact any of the esports platform. As for the subscriber age, we’re not so sure about that – Sky’s varied packages do make it appealing to different age groups, but that’s a different matter entirely.
The move that Sky made – one towards esports – isn’t exactly a surprise. Only a few weeks ago, Disney (and its channels) partnered with Blizzard to bring Overwatch matches to Disney’s many TV channels. That move was wildly successful and praised by fans of Overwatch, esports, and the Disney channels alike.
Whether or not this is Sky’s original idea or simply some good old-fashioned copycatting remains to be seen, but either way, it’s doubtful Sky’s partnering with GINX will have any long-term impact on the companies viewers…or indeed on esports fans’ viewing habits.