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Lionsgate‘s Pilgrim Media Group is pairing up with competitive game tournament organizer ESL to create unscripted digital and television programming around esports.

The question has been which of the traditional networks and production companies will be the first to produce mainstream esports broadcasts on both traditional television and digital channels. Last year, Lionsgate bought more than half of Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios (now renamed Pilgrim Media Group), making of unscripted programming shows such as The Ultimate Fighter, Fast N’ Loud, Wicked Tuna, Ghost Hunters, and Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s. And now it is making its move into esports. Market research group Newzoo reported in January, the esports economy is projected to grow to $1.1 billion in revenue by 2019 and entertain an audience of 345 million.

The ESL is one of the biggest esports companies in the world, and it recently held a tournament in Poland that drew more than 110,000 people. It hosted games such as Dota 2, League of Legends, StarCraft II, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, and Counter-Strike Global Offensive.

The announcement was made today by Pilgrim Media Group CEO Craig Piligian and ESL executive chairman Steven Roberts. ESL runs events such as the Intel Extreme Masters tournaments, ESL One, and ESL Pro League. Just last year alone, ESL competitions and tournaments drew over 100 million viewers who watched over nine and a half billion hours of programming.


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Lionsgate President of Interactive Ventures and Games Peter Levin brought the opportunity to Pilgrim and helped orchestrate the new content partnership, reflecting the close creative collaboration between the two studios. Lionsgate made an equity investment in Pilgrim last year.

“Pilgrim has a long history of creating competition programming that taps into the passion of fans — whether the playing field is the Octagon, the wilderness, on a fishing boat or in an arena,” Piligian said in a statement. “We’re extremely excited to bring the power, scope and mental muscle of gaming to television in a way that helps these loyal fans experience esports as never before.”

“Esports is exploding. Combining the authenticity of ESL with the storytelling expertise of Pilgrim and Lionsgate to further expand the audience is exciting. While the core gaming fans have been enjoying our content for years, the opportunity to showcase esports through a different lens is an amazing opportunity,” Roberts said, in a statement.

And Levin said in a statement, “Our partnership with Craig Piligian and relationship with ESL created the perfect opportunity to bring together the biggest esports promoter in the world and one of the most established and prolific unscripted production companies. We see tremendous growth potential in esports as it becomes a major player in the gaming ecosystem, and we’re thrilled to bring esports to more fans on an expanding array of platforms.”

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