Adapt or disappear: legacy sports media look to esports ...

Curator's Note

Please note: This video is a shortened version of a Prezi on research for my PhD. I have had to cut ruthlessley to come in close to the 3mins , so I hope it makes sense. Some of the slides move quite quickly - again due to time constraints - so you may have to pause! This sneak preview of the research is due to be published as a chapter called 'Television needs esports but esports doesn't need television ..'  in March 2020

Music: Touching Down by Scott Nice

Part of PhD research, published:
Filotrani, L., 2020. Television needs esports but esports doesn't need television. In: L. Walzak and J. Recupero, ed., Sport Media Vectors: Digitization, Expanding Audiences, and the Globalization of Live Sport, 1st ed. Common Ground.


The legacy sport broadcast media in the UK is facing fundamental questions about future sustainability of a sector which has to date relied heavily on revenue generated through the distribution of content via television. In the UK, all major sports have been reporting declining viewing figures across linear television, pay-to-view and subscription services. Teenagers are no longer turning to television for entertainment, instead they are choosing online streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. One major driver for this growth in viewership on the streaming platforms is the adoption of esports by both spectators and participants.

With the simultaneous rise of esports online and the decline of traditional sport spectatorship and viewership on linear television in the UK, both ends of the sporting spectrum are looking to each other for clues for securing future sustainability. Esports because of its fledgling status, as of yet unproven in the long-term, and traditional sport because of the changing viewing habits of an audience no longer loyal to a specific television channel. As the real and virtual converge, it could be argued that the exchange of cultural production is likely to be beneficial to both. Traditional broadcasters can learn from new esports media about engaging live streaming audiences, while new esports broadcasters may gain from looking to the tried and tested practices from legacy sports media for some answers to questions it is facing.

But are they learning from each other? My investigation into the ePremier League finals in 2019 suggested that mainstream media in the UK is yet to understand the medium of live streaming and the peculiarities of an esports community which make it stand apart from traditional sports broadcasts. I am currently rerunning the research for the finals 2021. Preliminary data suggests not much has changed, despite many more of the general public exposed to the idea of watching gaming due to the replacement of live sport with esports events during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

The developments of esports and the sector’s impact on a mainstream audience is intriguing – as the distinction between real and digital converges and becomes so blurred as the last clip on the game of HADO shows – will esports simply become sports? … What is interesting (and where my research lies) is to see how (or if) mainstream media adapts. Live streaming esports is not simply a case of transferring traditional sport broadcast values onto platforms such as Twitch - this is a different medium than television and so it needs a different approach. 

Link to the video above:

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