Hulu’s New Esports Shows, and What They Mean for Fans and Esports Bettors

by Mark Perry
on October 13, 2017

Hulu, Netflix’ TV counterpart, has just made a major announcement. Starting soon, they will be airing not one, but four esports centered TV series. This could have a major impact on the future of esports, and is something that a fan of any esport should be aware of.

The first show, Player v. Player, is intended to be a “gamified talk show.” Here esports coverage team members and other influencers will join a panel to discuss the latest hot topics in esports. “Bootcamp” is planned as a weekly documentary series. Its hour-long runtime will follow one player or team on their journey to victory, beginning with The Immortals and their rebuilding process leading to the Counterstrike: Global Offensive tournament at the Oracle Arena on November 18th and 19th. “Defining Moments” will bring things back to a panel format. Here players and other experts will discuss, analyze and breakdown various aspects of esports and competitive gaming, including gameplay and history of long-lasting rivalries. Finally, “ESL Replay” will be exactly what it says on the tin. This four-part miniseries will serve as a retrospective on the last year of ESL events, recapping all of the major goings-on.

This announcement has driven up a lot of buzz, but maybe not for all of the right reasons. Barry Hennessy, formerly the producer of “The Amazing Race” and “Born This Way,” has been chosen to lead the project. He began preproduction with ESL over the summer, and the project is now lifting off this week. A longtime gamer, Hennessey said he was taken aback by the energy at ESL One: Brooklyn, especially their Street Fighter V tournament “Brooklyn Beatdown.” Variety reported this from a conversation with him:

“ESports has such a rabid fanbase,” he said. For ESL, the goal is to widen the scope of Esports as it migrates into mainstream entertainment. The shows are being produced for both hard-core Esports buffs, while also trying to be “accessible to video-game fans who aren’t necessarily familiar with ‘CS-GO’ tournaments,” Hennessey said.

It is the fear of many that we are seeing signs of ill-fortune ahead. However, it is nearly impossible to predict what, exactly, the future has in store. For esports fans and esports bettors, Hulu’s interest in the genre and spectacle is sure to have an impact, but some are more jaded than excited. Let’s discuss the issues had, then we will take a bet on how these Hulu shows will work out.

The Issue With Hulu’s New eSports Shows

Business Insider broke down the new Hulu esports shows in a sort of pro and con way. One of the pros listed was written as such,

“Hulu can appeal to a large and growing number of esports fans with its new esports series.”

Now, many people see a glaring issue with this type of thinking. It is a simple fallacy to call out. When discussing traditional sports, is it right to call the majority of people a sports fan? Or would it be more correct to call them a football fan, a baseball fan, a basketball fan, a soccer fan, a hockey fan or a golf fan? Very few people are “sports fans.” Likewise, very few “esports fans” are “esports fans.” Instead, there are Hearthstone fans, and League of Legends fans, and Counterstrike: Global Offensive fans, and DotA2 fans, and Magic fans, and Street Fighter fans, and Smash fans, and so on and so on until the end of Twitch.

This style of thinking is mirrored in Barry Hennessy’s statement. He begins, “Esports have a rabid fanbase.” This simply is not the case. While many esports have a rabid fanbase, esports themselves do not. Those few who are fans of esports as a genre aren’t likely to be considered rabid at all. They may turn to the new Hulu shows for some streamlining, but have likely done research themselves. “eSports fans” tend to be people who make money from esports as a whole, or who understand the symbiotic nature of several games that are spearheading a generation.

This type of fallacious thinking that is shown from both outside and inside the production of the Hulu esports series is a major red flag. To those who were skeptical before, it may be enough to put the project to bed before production can begin. For those who were hopeful, this is sure to cause a sinking feeling. The implication here, and again shown by Business Insider, is that Hulu is looking to tap into a new market – the “millennial market” – with little clue as to what that market is actually looking for.

What This Means For The Future of Esports

An exciting aspect of esports from an industry point of view has been and will continue to be, a lack of precedent. When Richard Garfield first decided he wanted to create a “mental athlete” there was no mold to fit, only comparisons to live up to. Some 25 years later, the realm of mental athletics has grown far beyond what could have been expected when the idea of major competitive gaming first came about. Not once in these 25 years have organizers been able to look towards something and know that it is the definitive next step – the optimal play if you will.

When considering Hulu’s new esports shows, we see a precedent for the first time. Suddenly, esports begin to look like rock and roll, like hip-hop, even like fidget spinners. Every time a new generation flocks to an underground industry, big corporations see dollar signs. However, they rarely “get it,” and it would seem that Barry Hennessy does not. These shows are shaping up to be The Monkeys of esports.

For esports fans and esports bettors alike, this will mean more money, bigger shows, and new faces. These shows will be seen, but it seems unlikely that they’ll be seen by us. In the near future, there will likely be new mountains to climb as a flock of new fans struggle to grasp what esports are really about.

Whether these shows pass or fail, this is the beginning of the big time for esports.

It is up to us to decide what that will look like.

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