Pro Gaming Goes Mainstream: HOW ACTIVISION BLIZZARD IS BANKING ON ITS NEW OVERWATCH LEAGUE TO HELP IT BECOME THE ESPN OF ESPORTS

By Stilson, Janet | ADWEEK, December 4, 2017 | Go to article overview

Pro Gaming Goes Mainstream: HOW ACTIVISION BLIZZARD IS BANKING ON ITS NEW OVERWATCH LEAGUE TO HELP IT BECOME THE ESPN OF ESPORTS


Stilson, Janet, ADWEEK


Advertisers will soon have another big opportunity to sponsor professional sports teams, but these teams will duke it out on the virtual battlefield. The Overwatch League will launch on Activision Blizzard's streamed network MLG.tv in January as esports' first foray into organizing professional gamers into teams based in cities, like the MLB and NFL.

Overwatch is part of a $1.5 billion esports industry, per research firm SuperData, and with its new Overwatch League, Activision is looking to increase its chunk of that pie in three ways, according to Laura Martin, managing director and media analyst at Needham & Co. "It's selling team [Overwatch] franchise fees at $20 million each. Secondly, there will be a live event revenue stream, and third, it will improve engagement and enthusiasm."

By professionalizing Overwatch, which is based on an existing game that has more than 35 million players worldwide, Activision is making it easier for traditional advertisers to spend on esports. "It's been largely small scale [to date]. Now the shows are more spectacular. The production values are going up. The audience is increasing," explained Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData.

Brands have made use of video game opportunities in the past,"but they haven't been able to integrate themselves really well," van Dreunen added.

"One of the things that plagued esports in its organic development, especially from the standpoint of brands and advertisers, was that it was continually shifting. There was no long-term stability, largely because there were independent leagues and teams, and neither owned the underlying rights to the games," said Mike Sepso, svp at Activision Blizzard.

Sepso is a founder of Major League Gaming, which Activision purchased last year as it ratcheted up its esports ambitions. Sepso runs Activision's network unit with Steve Bornstein.

Ads and sponsorships will be one of Overwatch's most significant revenue streams as the league develops, Sepso expects, and it has already inked deals with its first two sponsors, Hewlett-Packard and Intel.

"We're really going to invest a lot into organically telling the story of how the two brands are supporting the league, the players, the teams and the fan base," Sepso explained.

"All the professional competitions will take place on HP Omen PCs. …

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