CEO Michiel Bakker on Ginx’s eSports bet

At the start of June, popular video games show VGN was dropped by broadcaster Challenge and production firm Ginx.

Just ten days later, Ginx announced it was launching a 24-hour eSports channel with Sky and ITV.

We had been reviewing our programming output for some time,” Ginx CEO Michiel Bakker says.

The way we were covering games is still valid, and will still be part of Ginx, but we looked at the development of eSports and decided it was the right moment for a dedicated channel. We are already broadcasting to 30m homes. Given the scale of events that are taking place and the excitement that is building around it, it makes for good TV. We made the decision six months ago to really focus the channel on eSports and have been preparing for launch ever since.”

The decision to no longer run VGN came from Challenge. If Ginx is still committed to covering games, then why did it not try and find a new home for the show?

Ginx operates as both its own TV channel and a production company,” Bakker says. VGN was a production made for Challenge. It wants to focus entirely on more game show formats rather than video games. But the rights for VGN are with Challenge for some time as part of our contract. It’s not ours to play with if you will.”

Although eSports is a prosperous market, Ginx’s decision to entirely focus on this market has not been completely popular. That pro-gaming was to become the firm’s focus was a detail missing from Ginx’s recent 500,000 crowdfunding push. The only mention of eSports was a weekly round up show, and some shareholders feel betrayed by this new direction.

This is not the way I wanted Ginx to go to at all,” one shareholder, Tanja Glittenberg, tells MCV.

I feel betrayed and sad that UK’s best gaming channel has totally forgotten about their core fans and supporters that are not into eSports. I wanted to support the channel I loved and cared about.”

Another source close to the company told MCV that Ginx is rushing into eSports – and that the move is far from popular internally.

Ginx been staffing up for the new eSports direction, but also losing a fair number of long-time employees at the same time owing to the shift in focus being an unpopular decision and the appalling way they’ve treated their existing – now former – producers and presenters,” the source says. The communication regarding the cancellation of VGN was handled incredibly poorly, as I imagine was the case with the other shows.”

But Bakker insists pro-gaming has been a focus for a while.

eSports has been part of our road map for some time,” he says. The more we looked at it after crowdfunding, the more sense it made to take the channel fully in that direction. We’ve now announced the intention of Sky and ITV to come on-board with the channel. This is a tremendous step forward for the business. It puts Ginx in a new playing field altogether. Our potential to grow the business from our original plan, the one put forward in our crowdfunding push, has been significantly enhanced. Strategies evolve, the market place changes and we’re responding to that.”

"When it comes to eSports, our ambition is nothing short of world domination."

Michiel Bakker, Ginx

Popular or not, Ginx has big plans for its eSports content.

Our ambition is nothing short of world domination,” Bakker says. We want to put the channel into every home in the world, that would be a good start. We want to expand into multiple territories. We’re already in almost 40m (including Sky’s 10m) homes, but there are still territories where we are not particular huge, such as North and Latin America. Those are places where we’d like to take the channel. That is what we will be focusing on.

But first things first, we want to get the programming mix completely right, to get feedback from our audience and to get the channel and mix of content optimised early on and then expand the distribution after.”

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