Marking another milestone in the history of eSports, BT Sport has now announced that they have purchased the rights to broadcast FIFA 17 matches live on our TV screens. The four EA FIFA Majors finals of this season’s Ultimate Team Championship series will be shown live in April and May after an exclusive deal was made with EA.
Players can compete using both PS4 and Xbox One consoles, and an eye-watering £130,000 prize is up for grabs for the winner as well as an equally impressive £65,000 for the runner-up. Commenting on the company’s purchase, the head of BT Sport, Simon Green, said “this is yet another example of live innovation from BT Sport. Competitive interactive football gaming is a rapidly growing industry and I’m delighted that BT Sport is now able to showcase it for the first time ever in the UK.”
FIFA games are already widely popular on YouTube, but this will be the first ever competitive gaming shown on UK television. The games will be shown with live reactions embedded into the gaming screen, which could prove a hilarious watch if the players who are competing are prone to temper tantrums. Senior Vice President and the General Manager of the Competitive Gaming Division at EA, Todd Sitrin, said that he hopes this move will be a step toward taking gaming into the mainstream. This certainly shouldn’t be difficult considering that FIFA is the most popular video game in the UK and there are a number of high ranking teams that already have their own eSports games, take Man U, Ajax, Valencia and Paris Saint-Germain, for example but many are wondering whether or not video gaming should be considered a serious sport. After all, how much energy could it possibly take?
FIFA doesn’t currently pull in the same level of audience that games such as League of Legends or Overwatch have done, but its popularity (and the fact that it is football) will probably make it an incredibly lucrative move for BT Sport. If the coverage gains some strong ratings, it could propel a rapid growth in competitive FIFA and could lead to more top English clubs fielding their own FIFA teams. Is it too fanatical to suggest that in the near future we could see current football players competing against one another in a digital Premier League alongside the real-life League? BT Sport has possibly opened the portal to a whole new dimension when it comes to what we get from football.
If you’re interested in tuning in, here are some dates for your diary. The first match to be broadcast on BT Sport will be the North American final in Vancouver on April 8th. After that, the Asia-Pacific regional final live from Singapore will be shown on April 22nd, and the European regional final will be shown on May 6th. The ultimate two-day final will be screened live from Berlin on the 20th and 21st.