The NBA 2K League has signed a multi-faceted rights deal with ESPN, which includes the first linear broadcasts of the National Basketball Association’s esports property in the US.
Starting on May 5, ESPN2 will air NBA 2K League matches on Tuesdays at 7 pm ET through May 19. Matches on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays will air on the ESPN app and ESPN.com throughout the season.
Every NBA 2K League match on ESPN’s platforms will also air live in the Caribbean, Latin America, Oceania, and Sub-Saharan Africa on ESPN2 or on one of ESPN’s digital platforms. Terms of the deal, which covers the 2020 season, were not disclosed.
The league’s inaugural season aired on Twitch while Season Two was broadcast on Twitch and YouTube.
The NBA 2K League recently announced its delayed 2020 season would begin in early May with at least six weeks of remote gameplay due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. The league was due to start its third season on March 24 but was postponed due to the ongoing health crisis.
The NBA 2K League had also announced in February that its main studio was moving to a 13,600 square-foot venue in Manhattan, which has a capacity of 200 people. The league also confirmed that select NBA 2K League teams would host rivalry matches and round-robin events in their local markets. However, these live events are now on hold due to the coronavirus.
Initially, all 23 teams will participate in regular-season gameplay remotely from their local markets with games simulcast live on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels. Each match will be played in a new best-of-three format.
The league also announced that its in-season tournaments – The Tipoff, The Turn, and The Ticket – will still take place this year, but did not specify in what format.
The Shanghai-based Gen.G have acquired an expansion team for this year’s competition, making them the first non NBA team-affiliated franchise in the league. The Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai are also the first competitors based outside of North America.
Also joining is Hornets Venom GT, which is operated by the Charlotte Hornets.
ESPN telecast and streaming details for matches beginning May 26 will be announced at a later date.