WASHINGTON — No live sports means broadcasting networks are taking a big hit, and with so many people at home, who have a whole lot more free time suddenly, live entertainment to watch is craved.
Well, on Friday, some of our greatest athletes take the stage like we've never seen them before. The NBA is going full gamer by producing a video game tournament that airs on ESPN and ESPN2.
Yup, you read that right.
It's an NBA 2K20 video game tournament with 16 NBA players running through April 11. The first round begins on April 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The format is like the NCAA Tournament. Players are seeded based on their player rating in NBA 2K20 and they control their respective squads. So, the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant, who has a 96-overall rating in the game, is the No. 1 overall seed.
Other stars include the Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell, the Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young, and even the Washington Wizards' rookie Rui Hachimura.
The winner of the virtual tournament receives $100,000 to give to a charity in support of the coronavirus relief efforts.
It’s no surprise sports networks are really feeling the coronavirus fallout and are struggling to fill programming.
According to the Wall Street Journal, if the NBA shuts down the season and cancels the playoffs, it would cost ESPN and ABC $481 million, and TNT $211 million in lost ad revenue.
So they're improvising.
Fox and Fox Sports One have already done something like this, broadcasting NASCAR's virtual racing series on Sunday, March 29, and pulling in 1.3 million viewers. That made it the highest-rated televised esports event ever.
It's proving that, if there's any time to air virtual sports on live television, it's now.