Dallas Morning News to Cover Dallas Fuel Matches
As esports continues to grow in popularity, more and more mainstream media outlets, such as ESPN and The Washington Post, are beginning to cover it. The latest outlet to join this trend is the Dallas Morning News (DMN), which recently announced that it will start reporting on Dallas’ local Overwatch team, the Dallas Fuel, in advance of the Overwatch League (OWL) taking on a homestand weekend format in 2020. This initial coverage will be used to evaluate reader interest and feedback on esports articles, and that data will help improve the newspaper’s future esports reports.
There’s good reason for the DMN to write about the OWL. In 2019, more than 13 million people tuned in across various broadcasts to watch the league, for a total of over five and a half trillion hours watched. On ABC in particular, the Stage Two playoffs reached over 500,000 viewers, making it the channel’s most successful esports broadcast ever. The league’s social media has more than 1 million followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram combined. Additionally, the OWL is one of the most popular sports leagues among 18 to 34 year olds, a demographic that newspapers are struggling to reach nowadays. Says DMN editor Garry Leavell, “This was a natural [move] because we know there’s a huge audience obviously out there for esports, but they generally don’t fit the profile of the traditional print newspaper reader. Looking to expand our coverage digitally, this looked like a natural fit at least to give a try to.”
Reporting on esports also fits into the DMN’s goals of local and niche topic coverage. According to DMN President and Publisher Grant Moise, there is an “emphatic interest” in esports in North Texas, so it makes sense to write about the Dallas Fuel alongside articles on teams such as the Mavs, Cowboys, Rangers, and Stars. Esports coverage is also an opportunity to break new ground. Moise adds that although esports is “a multi-billion dollar industry with millions of dedicated players and followers,” there “has been a lack of serious reporting on the teams, especially from big news organizations.” Moise seeks to change this and give esports the reporting it deserves.
On the OWL’s side, receiving local news coverage is a boon. With the upcoming homestand format, which will feature 20 different teams playing geolocated games in their home cities, it will be important for the OWL to attract as much local attention as possible. Articles in a paper like the DMN are a great way to work towards that. Pete Vlastelica, President and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports, says, “We think [The Dallas Morning News’] move to cover the Dallas Fuel Overwatch League team is a fantastic move, and local market sports coverage of Overwatch League teams is something we expect to see more of in the future. We want to throw our support behind this type of local market press coverage, and our teams are equally as excited as we move to play home matches in all local markets next season.”
Putting esports news into mainstream outlets could additionally help erase lingering stigmas associated with esports and gaming. Geoff Moore, President and COO of Dallas Fuel owner Envy Gaming, believes the DMN’s coverage can improve esports’ reputation and allow outsiders to understand it better. “We also need the wider marketplace to be aware of what we’re doing…because that lack of awareness and understanding can lead to negative reactions by people that don’t really understand competitive video game playing as a spectator sport,” he states. “We’ve seen some of that recently too in the news – that people that don’t understand us. But once they understand it and are exposed to it, then with knowledge, that stuff goes away.”
The DMN’s coverage of Dallas Fuel will run for the remainder of the 2019 season, which ends on August 25. Articles will be published online in the DMN’s SportsDay section, which readers can currently read for free.