As audiences around the world are gripped by the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit, chess24 can reveal yet more chess is about to hit the screens.
Play Magnus Group has announced a new deal with sports network Eurosport to broadcast the upcoming Champions Chess Tour.
Live chess will now be available on-demand across Europe and Asia.
It is a landmark moment for the game. Chess will take its place alongside tennis, football and other premium sporting events in 60 markets.
The agreement follows the incredible growth of online chess coverage this year that has seen millions tune in to chess24 and other platforms to watch stars like Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura.
Netflix drama The Queen’s Gambit, which is centred around a fictional chess prodigy, has also gripped audiences worldwide and hit number 1 in 30 countries.
Play Magnus Group had already announced on 15 October 2020 that NRK and TV 2 have jointly purchased the broadcasting rights for the Champions Chess Tour in Norway.
The Eurosport deal now massively expands that reach. The Champions Chess Tour is the successor to the hugely-popular Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour put on earlier this year.
The full tour carries a record $1.5 million prize pot and will feature the world’s strongest chess grandmasters including Carlsen, the reigning World Champion.
Eurosport’s agreement sees live and localised coverage of the Champions Chess Tour knock-out rounds screened in English, German, French and Spanish via digital platforms including the Eurosport App (Europe), Dplay (Finland) and Discovery Plus (India).
The first leg is the Skilling Open, which starts on November 22. Two of the top names taking part have already been announced: Chinese number 1 Ding Liren and Armenian no. 1 Levon Aronian. A third participant will be revealed later today.
Play Magnus CEO Andreas Thome said:
We are happy and proud for this important collaboration. By partnering with a leading sports network like Eurosport, we are able to bring chess entertainment to a whole new audience and increase our reach globally. Instead of exploring a traditional sale of the rights, we have decided to focus on working closely together with Eurosport to develop the sport of chess. At this stage, securing wide distribution is critical for attracting commercial partners for the Champions Chess Tour and building the value of chess broadcast rights over time.
Played on the chess24 platform, top grandmasters will be seen competing in front of cameras installed in their homes while studio commentary and analysis offers insights to viewers.
The full season consists of 10 elite chess tournaments running from November 2020 to September 2021, with the eventual winner crowned the best online player in the world.
Trojan Paillot, VP Rights Acquisitions and Distribution at Eurosport, said:
Chess has a great potential to attract a dedicated, global audience and Eurosport has a proven track record in its ability to increase awareness of a sport and establish a solid platform for rights holders to grow their fanbase and attraction towards new territories. Play Magnus Group is known for innovating and modernising a game played by over 650 million people globally. Eurosport will facilitate and fasten the development of the game thanks to a combined linear and digital approach, bringing Chess to the widest number of people through our broadcast and distribution operations.
Emmanuel Mendibure, Head of Federations & Partnerships at Discovery and Eurosport, said:
We believe by joining forces and creating more assets for Play Magnus Group, we will actively contribute to raising the commercial profile of the sport. Knowing the Champions Chess Tour is an online tournament, our partnership does resonate with our capacity to use all the assets we have to accelerate the growth of an event organiser and our ability to magnify it further by turning it into an entertainment and exciting sporting event.
Fifteen million people watched the first season of the Tour won by Carlsen in a thrilling finale against Nakamura, his American challenger, in August.
The renamed Champions Chess Tour is expected to attract an even larger audience as chess has become one of the most popular online games and entertainment streams during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Viewers will also be able to participate in interactive activities with the leading chess stars during the season using tour passes to be made available at championschesstour.com.