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Gamecaster to Bring Video Games to TV

27 Nov, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi

San Diego-based Gamecaster hopes to turn video games into the next spectator sport for both a national TV audience and the Internet.

Dubbed “eSports” by Gamecaster president David MacIntosh, who founded the company in 2000, the half-hour TV series, “Gamecaster: The Series,” will feature PC and console video games that will be played by studio contestants in tournaments on an L.A. sound stage to win cash and prizes.

Rick Gentile, former senior v.p. and executive producer of CBS Sports and “equity participant” in Gamecaster, will serve as the executive producer of the series. Jim Burnworth, who directed postproduction of ESPN2’s "X-Games" for three years, will direct the series. MacIntosh will serve as producer.

“Today’s video game systems like Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube bring amazing visuals that are just beginning to reach the level of a Toy Story quality, which should draw in a TV audience,” said MacIntosh. “We’re going to take today’s hottest games and produce a high-quality show that blends ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ with ‘The X-Games’ in front of a live studio audience of 150 people.”

Gamecaster is funding the pilot episode, which will tape late this year or early 2002, and is currently shopping the show around to networks and cable TV channels as a packaged product, including some advertising. Should the series be picked up, Gamecaster will partner with Imagine Media for cross-promotions in its Official Xbox Magazine, Next Generation Magazine, PC Gamer and PlayStation Magazine, and video game publisher Tecmo will be a sponsor and a provider of fighting games, beginning with Dead or Alive 3 for Xbox.

Gamecaster is in talks with CompUSA’s new multi-million dollar store-within-a-store video game initiative, Gamefixx, to become the retail partner for the TV series with promotions and sponsorship through its 225 retail stores nationwide and www.gamefixx.com.

The William Morris Agency will shop the pilot to network execs and broker the TV series deal. To ensure the concept makes the air, Gamecaster will buy time on a cable network to air the pilot, and do the same with future episodes, if need be.

While the exact format of each show has not been finalized, contestants will compete in a number of game genres, including fighting, action and strategy. The show will allow for numerous cross-promotions with video game publishers, as well as more mass market advertisers.

There are over 145 million Americans playing PC and console video games today, with the majority in the coveted 12-to-35-year-old demographic.

Comedian Brad Stine and 15 year-old Fred Medill, co-anchor of the nationally syndicated CBS Sports show “Kids Talk Sports” will host the series. Phil Stone will bring his 27 years of sports broadcasting experience to the show, providing play-by-play commentary on the tournament. The series will feature a game show set and incorporate sports telecast staples like instant replay and slow motion to bring the video game action to life. A weekly “Burst-In” segment will allow an online winner to compete in his or her home against an in-studio champion on TV.

“Video games are a hot field right now and I believe that by bringing a sports style of coverage to our coverage of tournaments, we’ll be able to make the viewer care about who wins,” said Gentile. “Like the Olympics, these video game tournaments feature the best players in their field. By covering the intense competition of the events and telling the individual stories of the contestants, we’ll be able to make this a great sporting event.”

“We’re going to give video game players fame, fortune and fun on national TV,” said MacIntosh. “This concept is evolutionary, not revolutionary. The time has come for the video game world to be celebrated on national TV.”

Best known for its work on the past nine Super Bowls as well as the 2001 Academy Awards and Emmy Awards shows, visual effects company REZN8, which is an “equity participant” in Gamecaster, will help create the show’s presentation.

“Our goal is to help create a major event type of experience,” said James Marsland, v.p. of business affairs for REZN8. “Our image systems will give the show a unique look, feel and style for a nicely polished look.”

MacIntosh is working with L.A. modeling and talent agencies to cast the contestants for the pilot, who will need to be good video game players. The hope for the series is to use the Internet to scout gaming “athletes” with personalities, who will face off from week to week. MacIntosh hopes to establish the video game equivalents of Tiger Woods, Tony Hawk and Dennis Rodman to keep audiences coming back every week.

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