BT Sport has agreed a deal to broadcast a series of celebrity-led esports programmes in the latest mainstream endorsement of competitive video gaming.
The broadcaster has partnered with Gfinity to launch the FIFA Challenge. The esports business was headed up by former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook up until March when he was replaced by John Clarke as CEO.
The series is made up of four teams captained by former footballers Robbie Savage and Joe Cole, ex-England Rugby Union player Ugo Monye, and Fulham Ladies forward Chelcee Grimes.
The tournament will pit each team against one another in weekly matches before hosting a final on June 5.
Gfinity and BT are also working on further concepts around competitive gaming and the two companies plan for the broadcast of esports to continue long after the current pandemic.
Jamie Hindhaugh, BT Sport chief operating officer, said that lockdown has forced the company to explore new content that would give viewers their “sport fix” while there is no live sport.
“The good news is that this has accelerated our esports plans with Gfinity and we’ll be kicking this off in May, using our market leading remote production capabilities, with a fun, chat based, FIFA gaming format with plenty of competition between our BT Sport teams that we hope our viewers will enjoy,” he said.
Both parties will co-produce the series with each episode being managed remotely.
BT is not the only broadcaster using esports to help fill enormous gaps in their scheduled programming. Sky has already turned to a number of events including virtual Formula 1.
Sky broadcast a virtual Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday with footballers Sergio Aguero and Thibaut Courtois taking part alongside Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.
Revenue from esports is set to reach $1.79bn (£1.43bn ) in 2022, up from $1.09bn last year.