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BT Sport and BBC turn to esports content

UK broadcasters BT Sport and the BBC have turned to broadcasting esports content in a further sign of the sports rights market’s adaptation to the absence of traditional live sport during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

BT Sport is broadcasting a Fifa-based esports competition in a format co-devised and co-produced with esports company Gfinity, while the BBC, the UK public broadcaster, secured rights to the Rocket League esports competition.

The Fifa Challenge series pits BT Sport pundits against each in a four-team tournament, which began with a draft show on Friday. This will be followed by weekly matches, culminating with a final on June 5.

The pay-television broadcaster is showing the competition on its linear BT Sport 1 channel.

BT Sport and Gfinity envisage the initiative to be the first of a number of esports ventures, which they aim to devise over the coming months. The parties plan for their collaboration to continue past the end of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the BBC showed the regionally based two-day Rocket League European Spring Series on Saturday and Sunday.

It exploited the rights to the competition on its BBC Sport website and app as well as its iPlayer OTT platform.

The BBC has held out the possibility of broadcasting more esports events.

Ben Gallop, head of digital at BBC Sport, said: “BBC Sport is constantly evolving and a time like this gives us the chance to do even more with esports, as well as looking ahead to see what’s possible in the future.”

Last month, the BBC showed the Tour de Suisse-backed ‘Digital Swiss 5’ e-cycling event on its digital platforms after earlier interest in the property from commercial broadcaster ITV.

The BBC first broadcast esports in 2017 in a deal with Gfinity for rights to its Elite Series competition, alongside BT Sport.