i3 - January/February 2018 - 47

TS

"The players will play with their own avatar, and the reason for this is to
create true competitive balance," Donahue explains. "It wouldn't be fair to
have LeBron James playing the fifth-best starter on another team.
We want to have a level playing field so the only true differentiator for
a player's performance is their own personal skills."

Top: Yaacov Dagan / Alamy Stock Photo. Bottom: Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

OVERWATCH LEAGUE

Activision Blizzard has taken a page from traditional sports with its
12-team Overwatch League, which kicks off competition this month
(January 2018). Many of the owners of the new league come from sports
businesses, including New England Patriots owner Kraft Group (Boston
Uprising), LA Rams, Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets owner
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (Los Angeles Gladiators), NRG Esports
(San Francisco Shock) and Comcast Spectacor (Philadelphia Fusion).
Nate Nanzer, commissioner of the Overwatch League at Activision
Blizzard, says the league has been set up for longevity, allowing teams to
benefit from the global audience while establishing local fan bases.
"In addition to receiving a share of global revenues from media rights,
contracts, sponsorship, merchandise - both physical and virtual - and
in-game items, teams also have a structure built to encourage local entrepreneurship and build a local business," Nanzer says. "The structure keeps
the lion's share of local sponsorships and tickets at the team level."
MLB great Alex Rodriguez, who's a co-owner of NRG Esports and sits
on the board, says the move by game companies like Activision Blizzard
opens up many new opportunities for esports.
"With franchising and with permanent local markets we now have an
esports structure similar to traditional sports franchising," Rodriguez says.
"This makes it easier for investors, brands and fans to make financial and
emotional investments in teams that the fans know are going to stick
around and become part of the local sports scene for decades to come."
Jim Pekala, senior vice president of strategic planning for Comcast
Spectacor, says that the Overwatch League is structured so that it
matches up with the company's strengths surrounding the creation of
business extensions and additional revenue streams associated with
running a successful professional sports team like the Flyers.
"Our history with the Flyers has given us an opportunity to create and
continually strengthen a great relationship with Philadelphia's passionate
fans, and we're looking forward to introducing them to the Fusion," Pekala
explains. "Comcast Spectacor's portfolio also features the Wells Fargo
Center and several client properties throughout the region, and we plan
to explore marketing partnerships that leverage these touch points."
All eyes are on Riot Games and Activision Blizzard with these new
franchise leagues, which could be a bellwether of things to come as
esports continue to evolve into big business. But traditional sports
aren't going away. If anything, the investment by sports teams
(including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recent backing of
Complexity Gaming and Boston Celtics player Jonas Jerebko's acquisition of Renegades) solidifies the future of esports - the first global
digital sport.
Three-time NBA champion Rick Fox, owner of the Echo Fox esports
organization, believes this wave of professional teams recognizing
esports will continue. "They can educate the esports fan base about
football, basketball, baseball and hockey," Fox says.
"Some teams are moving in from a defensive place wanting to make
sure they have a stake in the future. Some of them are moving in to
educate themselves, and are stepping in at a level that allows for further
escalation in coming years. And others are turning a blind eye to
esports, and I would say they're going to regret that."
C TA . t e c h / i 3

CES SPORTS ZONE,
PRESENTED BY TURNER
SPORTS, SUPPORTING
PARTNER: SPORTS
INNOVATION LAB
Location: Sands, Level 2
As the global event for technology
innovation, CES is the perfect arena for
sports technology advancements.
From smart products that enhance athletic
performance to state-of-the-art venues and
next-gen sponsorships, see it all at CES.

The Intel and
Under Armour
booths at CES
last year.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018

47


http://www.cta.tech

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - January/February 2018

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