Professional gamers have been trying to get primetime attention as real athletes for years. They’re finally succeeding now, as evidenced by the fact that a major sports broadcast distributor has agreed to air the broadcasts of Major League Gaming across its different distribution channels, meaning pro gamers will get as much exposure as other athletes on broadcast media.

Major League Gaming chief executive Sundance DiGiovanni said in an interview that sports-fashion-media company IMG Worldwide is teaming up with MLG to raise the awareness and popularity of competitive gaming. If it takes off, then the couch potato video game players could rub shoulders with physical sports athletes on major media sites.

“It’s a great chance for competitive gaming to appear in traditional sports channels,” DiGiovanni said.

Under the deal, IMG will help build brand awareness of MLG through distribution, programming and marketing agreements with broadcast and broadband partners. IMG distributes more than 19,000 hours of TV sports programming to major broadcasters around the world every year. Now, on the web or on broadcast media, pro gamer events will be aired alongside other sports shows.

For individual gamers, the deal means much more exposure and possibly more endorsement deals that go with that. It may mean that more gamers will be able to make a living as professional cyberathletes, much as the do in other countries such as South Korea.

DiGiovanni said the reason is that there is a lot of crossover between young sports fans and gamers these days. Since New York-based MLG has been around for almost eight years, many kids and young sports fans have grown up with the notion that competitive online video games such as Halo or StarCraft 2 are real sports.

Michel Masquelier, president of IMG Media, further notes that video games are the No. 1 activity among 18-year-old to 24-year-old males. He said the goal of the partnership is to raise the competitive gaming industry to a new level as a sport. MLG has an audience more than 4.5 million people each month, and thousands of people show up to its live competitive events.

The multi-city Pro-Circuit tour of live events will kick off in Dallas on April 1. Players compete for more than $1 million in prizes. This season will have the largest prizes in the league’s history. MLG was founded in 2002. Tournament gaming has become more popular with companies such as Virgin Gaming entering the market, but MLG has outlasted many of the competitive sports leagues for gamers.