Australia will soon have its own city-based eSports competition thanks to a partnership between an ASX-listed media and entertainment firm and a London-based eSports group.

HT&E (ASX:HT1) – formerly known as APN News and Media – announced the joint venture with London-based Gfinity, along with Ireland company IKON Media & Entertainment to the market this week.

It will see the launch of a national competitive gaming league featuring an initial eight franchises based in capital cities, along with an amateur competition that will funnel players up to the professional version.

The Elite Series will see teams including Melbourne Rebolte, Melbourne Metattak and Sydney Opsydian competing weekly at dedicated venues around the country, and will be televised online and across other TV and media platforms.

The full list of founding teams will be:
Adelaide Photonics
Brisbane Deceptors
Melbourne Metattak
Melbourne Rebolte
Perth Subnets
Sydney Blue Surge
Sydney Opsydian

To accompany the main competition, HT&E will also be launching The Challenger Series in the third quarter this year, which will give amateur players the opportunity to win a spot in the professional league.

It’s currently unclear how many games will be involved or what they will be.

According to Newzoo research, the global audience for eSports is set to surpass 385 million this year with the total market expected to grow to $US1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) by 2020.

It has already been a big year for eSports in Australia, with a global competition attracting 10,000 punters in Sydney and AFL club Adelaide Crows purchasing its own eSports team.

The new venture is an opportunity to reach a younger audience, HT&E boss Ciaran Davis said.

“The global eSports market has seen substantial growth in recent years, and we’re really excited to be entering with an established, world-leading eSports business, Gfinity,” Mr Davis said.

“This move supports our strategic objectives to diversify revenues and expand our audience base, and we see in this opportunity the potential to reach a younger audience base and drive growth for HT&E.”

The league is not in collaboration with screenPLAY’s own upcoming eSports competition, meaning Australia will have two national eSports leagues by next year.

Gfinity CEO Neville Upton said he was “excited” to be bringing eSports franchises to Australia.

“Our goal is to grow eSports in Australia and create a vibrant domestic professional league; we look forward to promoting Australia’s home grown talent via our online competitions and city-based franchise league,” Mr Upton said.

The news comes as another ASX-listed eSports company, eSport Mogul (ASX:ESH), recently announced that former Ladbrokes boss Kris Robinson will be joining its team as chief operating officer.

And yet another eSports company, Gaming Battle Ground, plans to list on the ASX through a reverse takeover of mining shell Arrowhead Resources (ASX:AR1).