NBA becomes first professional sports league to back an e-sports league

Global Business

NBA becomes first professional sports league to back an e-sports league

The National Basketball Association recently announced it would be starting a video-game league operated by real NBA franchises. 17 teams, including the New York Nicks and the Miami Heat, will go head to head in 2018.

CGTN America’s Karina Huber reports.

NBA 2K is a video game created by Take-Two Interactive. It features avatars of real NBA players controlled by amateur gamers.

“The NBA 2K game itself is extremely popular and sells millions of copies each year,” Jason Lake, Founder of CompLexity Gaming said. “Up until now it has not been an extremely popular e-sport from the viewership standpoint.”

The National Basketball Association is hoping to change that.

It will soon be launching a professional gaming league run by NBA franchises. The teams will consist of five players drafted among the world’s top NBA 2K gamers. They will face off in championships that are likely to take place in arenas.

Steve Olenic is a lawyer at Loeb&Loeb specializing in sports. He says it’s a good move for the NBA.

“It’s a new way to bring in new viewership, new sponsorships to come in but more importantly you’re getting more eyeballs,” Olenic said.

Lake thinks it will also help the NBA stay relevant.

“This is a digital sport for a new digital generation,” he said. “This generation consumes its content via streams, YouTube, online, Netflix, so on and so forth. So as far as sports entertainment goes for the future, e-sports is huge part of the future.”

Competitive video-gaming or “e-sports” brought in 892 million dollars globally in revenue last year. This year it is expected to surpass one billion dollars. Most of the money is generated through sponsorships and advertising.

Sports leagues like Fifa, the NHL and the UFC have all delved into gaming but in the world of e-sports – League of Legends is king.

According to Riot Games, the 2016 World Championship finals were viewed by 43 million people. The big question is whether the digital version of traditional sports will be able to garner the same kind of excitement.

“I believe that after the honeymoon phase and the new excitement of the league wears off, they might have difficulty driving viewership compared to traditional e-sports,” Lake said.

Lake said that’s because it’s unclear whether people want to watch a video game of a sport instead of watching the real thing. We should have a better sense next year. That’s when the league is launching with 17 teams including the New York Nicks and the Miami Heat.

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