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Friday, June 14, 2024

ESPN to Cease Daily Coverage of Esports

  • ESPN’s first esports vertical launched in 2016.
  • But it’s falling victim to the worst job cuts in the media giant’s 41-year history.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

A cost-cutting ESPN is ending its daily coverage of the esports industry.

“We have made the difficult decision to cease operations for our dedicated daily esports editorial and content,” ESPN told Front Office Sports in a statement. “We recognize esports as an opportunity to expand our audience, and we’ll continue to do so through coverage from the broader team for major events, breaking news and coverage.”

On the programming side, sources said ESPN will continue to look for opportunities to show live esports events across its various media platforms. However, ESPN will end daily coverage of the $1 billion global industry.

In April, ESPN was the official streaming platform for the 2020 League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) Spring Split Playoffs. It previously televised and streamed the Overwatch League Playoffs and Grand Finals, the EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18 Championship Series and many other tournaments.

ESPN was scheduled to stream a League of Legends free-agency show on Nov. 16; it has since canceled it.

Moving forward, ESPN will take the same editorial approach toward esports as it did with sports business after Reporter Darren Rovell jumped to The Action Network in 2018, said sources. Once Rovell left, ESPN didn’t provide daily coverage of the sports business industry. But it continues to cover sports business news and developments on a story-by-story basis. ESPN will take the same approach toward esports, said sources.

ESPN launched its vertical devoted to the world of competitive gaming in 2016. But ultimately the new business didn’t scale enough to make a meaningful impact, said sources. 

For now, there continues to be a dedicated esports page at ESPN.com. The vertical’s Twitter feed currently has 511,000 followers 

The writing has been on the wall for ESPN’s esports operation since Nov. 5 when several of the company’s most prominent video gaming journalists were among the 300 staffers laid off as part of the worst job cuts in the sports media giant’s 41-year history. 

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Among those revealing on Twitter that their contracts were not renewed for 2021 were Associate Editor Sean Morrison, Staff Writer Emily Rand and Writers Tyler Erzberger and Jacob Wolf, who joined ESPN at age 19.

“I’ve been a part of ESPN’s esports efforts since the fourth month after they were launched, joining in April 2016,” Wolf tweeted. “I am the youngest person ever hired at ESPN and I carry that with pride.”

ESPN’s young esports journalists might not be out of work for long. 

Other major media brands are launching special sections dedicated to the world of competing gaming. A year ago, the Washington Post rolled out “Launcher,” a subsection of the sports department dedicated to video games, esports competitions, and gaming culture.

Wolf, who is one of the most prominent esports reporters, said on Twitter that he is already in talks with other companies to keep covering the industry.

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