“We’re testing to see if this could be ‘sports for CW,’” Rick Haskins, exec VP of marketing and digital programs for the CW, told Variety when the news was first announced.
For the players, the tournament marked a turning point for the esports community. A whopping 9 million people play Mortal Kombat X.
“It’s history for esports,” contestant Brant McCaskill told Mashable. “Before The CW, it was just for people who already watched the games and were fans. CW [is] alerting people and validating it. The network elevated our industry, and there’s no turning back.”
Returning champion Dominique Maclean added, “Having a lot of top game players be on TV for something like this is really going to open the audience to what we do.”
The special certainly got fans of the digital series watching. The first five episodes, which are about 15 minutes each, have reportedly been streamed by “tens of thousands of people.”
But while #TeamInternet was enthusiastic about seeing their favorite esports players on a different platform, a critical mass of TV viewers didn’t end up tuning in. It seems like the counterprogramming competition was too fierce for the digital series-turned-special.
Up against the 2016 Grammys and other popular Monday night offerings, the CW special racked up a meager 0.3 rating in in the key 18-to-49 demographic, according to Nielsen. By comparison, the Grammy Awards earned a much healthier 7.4 in that same demo.
Still, Machinima’s chief content officer Daniel Tibbets had high hopes for the series.
“As video games and e-sports become more mainstream, broadcast networks are looking for content to attract this highly valuable audience,” he said in a statement ahead of the final tournament. “‘Machinima’s Chasing the Cup is an incredible series … and we look forward to working with the CW on [it] for a long time.”
And low ratings don’t necessarily signify failure. The series making its way to television certainly brought more attention to a growing genre of entertainment.
As competitor Carl White told Mashable: “I don’t think esports is going away anytime soon…and I think there will be more and more televised events that are going to showcase different games content.”