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ESPN2 Aired Video Games Last Night as a Preview of Our eSports Future

All your sports channels are belong to us.

​To some, what ESPN2 aired on Sunday night was strange.

The channel veered away from its usual fare of having some combination of Skip Bayless and Stephen A Smith yell at each other and instead spent two hours televising a video game competition.

The program, called Heroes of the Dorm, pitted college kids from Arizona State University and the University of California, Berkeley against each other in Heroes of the Storm. The slick production aired live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and featured ESPN graphics and energetic commentary.


With the NHL and NBA playoffs airing on other networks, Sunday Night Baseball taking up its usual spot on ESPN, and HBO's powerhouse Game of Thrones airing in the timeslot, Heroes of the Dorm was up against some stiff competition (It also aired with little promotion).

So, it's not a surprise that it only pulled in a negligible 0.1 rating, which translates into around 100,000 viewers. But for those who did watch it were left wondering what the hell was happening:

Literally can't take ESPN 2 serious right now

— Nathan Michael (@Nathan_Michael9) April 27, 2015

ESPN 2 right now should be changed to ESPN 8 the ocho. Why the hell is online gaming on TV? #WaitWhaaaaat

— Andy Carr (@andycarr24) April 27, 2015

Some of ESPN's own personalities must have missed their employer's programming memo (Colin Cowherd  ​predictably had a terrible Hot Take).

I took the bait. Just turned on ESPN 2. As someone whose face appears daily on the channel, I don't have answers. #LeeroyJenkins #chicken

— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) April 27, 2015

On another note, what is on espn2?!? How am I just finding out about this???

— Robert Flores (@RoFloESPN) April 27, 2015

With all those other popular programming options airing, ESPN may have wanted to experiment a bit to see if American audiences are ready to start watching a burgeoning sport that has captured huge audiences overseas, especially in Asia. Last year, ESPN2 aired Dota 2's The International finals, and the network has been airing gaming on ESPN3, its broadband streaming service.

Regardless of yesterday's low viewership,worldwide, eSports are projected to pull in $465 million a year by 2017 and rival the audience size of the NFL. In fact, worldwide, more people watch major eSports competitions than the World Series, the NCAA's Men Basketball Final Four and the BCS National Championship football game.

Maybe this guy wasn't so far off base when he suggested that gaming is the future of ESPN:

@RoFloESPN eSports. Heroes of the Storm. The future of your network. So good.

— Michael Darcy (@michaelcdarcy) April 27, 2015

OK, maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, but, even if last night's ratings were nothing to write home about, it appears that ESPN president John Skipper is slowly coming around eSports. Last September, he said gaming is "not a sport" and said his networks only show "real sports." Leaving aside the fact that it airs the Scripps National Spelling Bee every year, it's looking like Skipper—or his employees, at least—think that gaming is plenty "sports" enough for ESPN.