After a long 100 days with no football, the Premier League roared back into action this month with a schedule that will put any player’s fitness to the test. It is great news for football fans around the world, but what impact will the relaunch have on the burgeoning esports industry?
Over the last three months, with almost all professional sport on pause around, the esports industry has stepped up and provided entertainment for millions of people isolating at home. Esports was already big business before the pandemic, with millions of people tuning in to watch the world’s best players compete at League of Legends, Call of Duty, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, and Fortnite, but the pandemic brought a huge new audience.
Over the last three months, professional sporting bodies from the Football Association to the NBA to Formula 1 have all teamed up with video gaming firms and platforms to keep their fans engaged – whether than is professional footballers getting involved in games of Fifa or F1 drivers taking part in a virtual Grand Prix. Millions of people that previously may not have ever watched esports were suddenly watching the games play out – it was a huge moment for the industry.
Whether the esports industry will be able to hold onto any of these new players or streamers is yet to be seen, but with live sport now back on our screens they will need to compete much harder for the attention. What could be bad news for the esports industry is good news for live sports fans, however, with broadcasters deciding to show the vast majority of Project Restart’s matches free-to-air and you probably don’t even need to buy any kit or pay for a subscription to watch most the games.
The majority of broadcasters are being generous in these unprecedented time, offering their content for free to excite the masses, but there is one outlier that has decided to keep its matches securely behind a paywall – BT Sport. The platform has secured rights to 20 of the final 92 games of Project Restart, and to watch them you will need to pay for a £25 per month subscription. If you pay up then you will be able to watch BT Sport on your laptop, smartphone or tablet using the app or web player, or you can watch the service on your TV if you have Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation, Samsung Smart TV, Now TV, Chromecast or Airplay.
However, it is not all bad news. For the first time since the Premier League was established in 1992, the BBC will broadcast four top flight matches free-to-air on terrestrial TV. As long as you have a Freeview-enabled TV and pay your license fee then you should be able to watch all of these matches, which included Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace and Norwich vs Everton last week, and Southampton vs Manchester City on Sunday July 5. Auntie’s fourth match for broadcast remains up in the air, with the Premier League still in negotiations with all the broadcasters over many of the remaining rights.