BBC Three showing live esports for next six weekends


Well, East me Enders and Pano my Rama: live Esports is coming to to the BBC this month. BBC Three (which is now online only) will broadcast the new Gfinity Elite League Series One, which means four hours of Rocket League, CS:GO and Street Fighter V on iPlayer every weekend for the next six weeks.

There’s a proper schedule and everything: Fridays at 9pm is for Street Fighter, which in a massive programming screw up clashes with Gardener’s World. Saturday nights from 9-11 is CS:GO (no Casualty for me then), and Rocket League is happening Sunday afternoon from 5. It’s all coming live from the Gfinity Arena in West London, with eight organisations taking part.

There’s a couple of big boys in there, with Method, Endpoint and EnVyUs competing with some lesser-known squads. All of the teams are required to draft players from the Challenger Series, a recurring online tournament that anyone can sign up to for free in the hope that they stand out and get snapped up by an organisation.

The coverage is starting four weeks into the tournament, and UK veterans Team Infused are looking the strongest so far. There’s £225,000 up for grabs every week, and then at the end of ten weeks one organisation is crowned the overall winner alongside three individual game champions.

When they say it’s a “first of its kind” for the BBC that’s not really true: the broadcaster showed the 2015 League of Legends World Championships. I’m surprised they haven’t mentioned that, actually, because they did a pretty good job of it, attracting 137,000 unique viewers and scooping up a Broadcast Digital Award 2016 for the coverage. So, I’m expecting big things!

Read the full announcement here, and tune into iPlayer or BBC 3’s website to watch.


  1. LexW1 says:

    I’ve never really watched eSports, and am not really “into” any of those games, but I am fascinated to see how the BBC handles this, so will definitely tune in for a little bit at least (if we can call watching iPlayer “tuning in”).

    • bob22 says:

      I hope they buck the trend by not having ‘shout casters’. Theyre so obnoxious they make the whole thing even more rediculous than it already is. I worry that those watching would expect it though…

      Old school competitive gaming (back before they pretended it was sport) was much better grounded.

      • Vandelay says:

        Have to agree about the ‘shout casters.’ I do actually enjoy a bit of eSports now and again, but the number of commentators that start screeching and deafeningly shouting anytime the action ratchets up even a minute amount is incredibly annoying. It comes across as all rather embarrassing and mostly incoherent.

        I will certainly try to watch some of this though. Intrigued to see how they present it and happily will show my support for more of this sort of thing.

    • Anti-Skub says:

      If the past is any indication of how regular TV channels handle video gaming content, I’m expecting it to feel like an episode of BBC BiteSize, hosted by insufferably bubbly presenters from some Saturday morning show on E4 whose ESports presenting qualifications are that they once played Super Mario 2 on someones phone, because the program will end up being made by 55 year old executives who have no idea who their audience is and think they are making an entertainment show for preteens.

      • bob22 says:

        “and think they are making an entertainment show for preteens”

        I mean in all fairness that is likely to be their primary demographic, the issue is more their inability to engage with it.

        • Anti-Skub says:

          No it’s not? Look at any eSports crowd.The demographic for eSports is usually 16-35. It absolutely is not under 12, which is how terrestrial television treats it.

          • bob22 says:

            Apologies I read ‘pre teen’ as ‘teen’, which id stick with unless there’s something other than anecdote to back it up.

            But live events aren’t a great basis for TV audiences though, as younger folks would require adult supervision. I imagine the TV audience trending more toward your average Twitch stream or YouTuber, which is that demo again.

            That said each game will draw a slightly different audience, kids today aren’t into the same things as us senior gamers.

  2. IaIaFhtagn says:

    Street Fighter? I was under the impression that the pro scene for that wasn’t particularly major, although I’ll admit I only follow the R6 scene.

    • Ansob says:

      SF has by far the biggest viewership in fighting games and the Evo finals get broadcast on ESPN every year (and Disney XD this year, for some reason?), so I’m not sure where that impression came from.

      • IaIaFhtagn says:

        Ah, fair enough. As I said, I only follow the R6 pro league and haven’t ever paid attention to the others; I’d heard of the CS:GO and Rocket League scenes because they’re pretty impossible to escape, but I don’t play fighting games and haven’t ever heard much about the SFV scene.

  3. ColonelFlanders says:

    big shame there’s no iRacing happening, especially in the middle of F1 season. Some of the battles i’ve seen on the McLaren Formula Races are almost as exciting as the real thing

    • bob22 says:

      Would seem a bit strange to have big budget esport sims – as at that point surely you should just be doing the actual thing? That is to say unlike a tennis game or a fighting game or a car football game or even a shooting game iRacing aims to provide the actual experience, so we start to get a bit uncanny valley.

      • Hardlylikely says:

        Safety and or accessibility factors (medical/age/disability), prohibitive costs, geographical location all would be things preventing someone from getting involved in physical motorsport. Also the sheer amount of time involved. As well as practice and race time, think of maintenance, storing and transporting all the gear and spares, arranging time to do these things, finding funds, getting licenses and so on. It’s not trivially comparable to booting up a game and having a wheel and pedal setup, even with a subscription.

        Source: Mum and stepdad were involved in amateur rallying for a number of years, and I met a lot of people through their club. They had a great time and it is possible, but it is a bit like having a second job. Definitely not something anyone could achieve.

    • Grizzly says:

      I am not sure if “Almost as exciting as the real Mclaren Formula cars” is a good selling point :-P

      On a serious note – I can’t see iRacing catching on. Aside from it not being as impressive as the real thing, iRacing isn’t the best simulation either. It’s staggeringly expensive, and for that price you don’t get a whole lot of extra in return. What makes it stand out is it’s excellent online service, but that’s not what you’re paying for most of the time. If eracing will ever catch on, it will be with something far more accessible and weird like Trackmania.

      If FIFA becomes an esport broadcasted on BBC3, I can see something like a racesim becoming a mainstream esport happening, but it will most likely be something huge like Project Cars.

  4. Pich says:

    Is there any way to see it out of the UK?

  5. poliovaccine says:

    Interesting… I may be getting a skewed idea from reading a games-centric site after all, but I’m starting to get the impression that British TV has been historically open to experimenting with videogames as mass spectator media to an intriguing extent. Like, that article you guys did awhile back about old British kids’ TV and its various attempts (some sounded pretty successful) at integrating not just early 3D graphics, but games themselves into TV shows. It seems like a fairly recent idea pretty much everywhere except in British TV haha. I don’t remember any American equivalents… we had the occasional 3D-animated cartoon (god I miss happiness, I mean childhood) but nothing like the weird spectator sports or puzzle games with dungeon master figures like were in that article. Closest thing was probably fare like Legends of the Hidden Temple, which was basically the same minigame-tournament format but of course had nothing to do with videogames, rather it was stuff like jumping over a ball pit or stacking foam pieces to build a monkey statue (in such a way that anyone with the most rudimentary idea what a snowman looks like should have no issue, but they always had an issue, I think they probably screened the kids just to make sure they’d always have that issue) because of course America values things like physical prowess and ability to do assembly-line work with efficiency moreso than any such quaint little fare as brain teasers, puzzles and teamwork, pff!

    Incidentally, any Americans here remember if we ever had anything similar? To be fair I wasnt a huge TV watcher, so for all I know it could’ve been a whole big fad here too, and I just missed it.

  6. GallonOfAlan says:

    Competitive gaming, not sports. If you can smoke and drink while doing it, it’s not a sport.