Prolific reality TV production company Pilgrim Media Group (“The Ultimate Fighter,” “Ghost Hunters”) announced today that it is partnering with esports company ESL to create original esports content for both television and digital platforms.
ESL stages events in the Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL Pro League series. According to the company, last year, its competitions and tournaments drew over 100 million viewers who watched over nine and a half billion hours of programming.
Last year, Pilgrim Media Group received a $200 million cash and stock buy-in from Lionsgate, and it was Lionsgate’s president of interactive ventures and games Peter Levin who helped orchestrate the new content partnership between Pilgrim and ESL.
Esports viewership is up more than 100% over the past two years, according to a national study by Frank N. Magid Associates, and games market research group Newzoo reported in January that the esports economy will grow to $1.1 billion in revenue by 2019.
Media companies have not been blind to its rise. In recent months, Yahoo and ESPN.com (in partnership with T-Mobile) have debuted esports verticals, and last October IGN launched “Esports Weekly with Coca-Cola,” a 30-minute esports recap show that premieres new episodes every Friday. Gaming-centric multi-platform production company Machinima focused on esports at its NewFront presentation last week, and this month it is doing a soft launch of “Inside eSports,” a seven-day-a-week “SportCenter”-style show covering the latest news, highlights and analysis from the biggest tournaments.
“Esports is exploding,” said John Roberts, executive chairman of ESL, in a statement. “Combining the authenticity of ESL with the storytelling expertise of Pilgrim and Lionsgate to further expand the audience is exciting. While the core gaming fans have been enjoying our content for years, the opportunity to showcase esports through a different lens is an amazing opportunity.”
Founded in 2008 by CEO Craig Piligian (pictured, left), Pilgrim Media Group produces a long list of unscripted cable series including FYI’s “Kocktails with Khloé,” TLC’s “My Big Fat Fabulous Life,” and Discovery’s “Fast N’ Loud” and “Misfit Garage,” as well as telefilms such as Lifetime’s “Amanda Knox: Murder On Trial In Italy” and “Abducted: The Carlina White Story.”
In October 2015, it launched the digital studio 1620 Media, which has produced such short-form digital series as “Explained in Children’s Drawings,” “The Real Cat Therapist of Beverly Hills” and “Inside the Extras Studio,” starring Barry Bostwick, the latter of which debuted a second season last month.
Pilgrim has also partnered with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Films and Adaptive Media on “The Runner,” a reality-competition series scheduled to debut July 1 on Verizon’s Go90 platform