Gaming as a TV sport

Steve Yi

Grey Group

In Korea, gaming is a popular TV sport with dedicated channels, teams, leagues, superstar players, adoring female fans and multimedia branding opportunities that multinationals have so far largely ignored.

In Korea, Ongamenet, the first cable TV channel devoted solely to online gaming, this year celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Star League, a testament to the longevity and popularity of a TV gaming phenomenon that is now commonly referred to as ‘e-sports'.

The popularity of the single game platform, Starcraft, has swept the nation, first forming private gaming leagues in ‘PC rooms’ and now being delivered via cable, mobile TV and IPTV to an audience of mainly young consumers.

The term ‘e-sports', or electronics sports, came to define a recreational and highly profitable activity indulged in by Korean youth when, in 2002, the Korean Pro Gamer Association renamed itself as the Korean E-Sports Association (KeSPA). It now oversees, just for the Starcraft platform, two official individual e-sports leagues (Star League and MBC Game Star League), three team leagues and two dedicated e-sports stadia.