03/09/17: CSL heads north with new deals in hand; Twitch’s rapid Pulse, Zelaznik talks future of MLG.tv


It’s Thursday, March 9, 2017, and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

The Collegiate StarLeague is heading north for the 2017 North American Collegiate Grand Finals, which will take place at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto from May 12-14 with individual and team titles awarded across Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and a League of Legends Canadian Invitational. Almost 30,000 students from over 900 university and college campuses in the United States and Canada registered and competed this season in CSL leagues and tournaments.  In addition, this year – for the first time – CSL will also be introducing a speaker series to the event, featuring diverse panel discussions on the business of esports, the future of collegiate esports, and more. CSL also locked in Twitch and Campus Insiders to serve as streaming and distribution partners for the Grand Finals, with Twitch also being the digital home for all CSL regular season and play-off matches.


Another big venue for Street Fighter V. Gfinity announced that the brawler will serve as the second title for its Challenger Series tournament. Previously, the company selected CS:GO as the first stage of the trifecta that will make up its Gfinity Elite Series. Registration was now open for gamers to participate in the Challenger Series tournament, with the tournament serving as an open ladder in which players collect G-Points for wins. "We are delighted to announce that Street Fighter V is part of the Gfinity Elite Series during 2017,” said Neville Upton, CEO, Gfinity plc. “Street Fighter is one of the most iconic brands in the video gaming industry, with a passionate global community of fans. We look forward to welcoming them to the Elite Series, a tournament that we believe will have a big impact on eSports in the UK.”

ELeague lined up its groupings for the upcoming Street Fighter V Invitational, which will see the top players from each group moving on to the grand finals for their share of the $250,000 prize pool. The first group takes place on March 27, and will include: Infiltration, Julio Fuentes, Momochi, Brolynho, Ricki Ortiz, A4 Punk, Marn and Smug.

IEM booked a ticket to Sydney as the tournament series will kick off its 12th season with IEM Sydney from May 6-7 at Qudos Bank Arena as fans witness teams competing for a prize pool of $260,000 in CS:GO. "Having been to five different continents is a badge of honor for our historic competition,” said Michal Blicharz, VP Pro Gaming at ESL. “Australia has been an attractive market for us as part of our global expansion of the Intel Extreme Masters brand. We look forward to bringing Intel Extreme Masters to new global audiences and making history for esports in Australia.”

Gaming hardware company ZOTAC unveiled details for the first ever ZOTAC Cup Masters. Partnering with BattleFy, the event will mark the first esports tournament to happen during Computex as the face off on Dota 2. The regional qualifiers will begin on March 12, and lead to the finals from May 20-June 3 in Taiwan with a prize pool of $100,000.

Franchise fees for the upcoming Overwatch League are being dangled for $2-5 million, according to SBJ, for the majority of potential markets. However, the report stated that a team based in LA will set owners back by as much as $15 million.

Red Bull Proving Grounds booked its 2017 plans for Street Fighter V, lining up “more qualifying cities, more online competition, and higher stakes.” The slate will see players will compete in monthly competitions, accumulating points to rise up the rankings. At the end of the season, three top players from each of the eleven Red Bull Proving Grounds qualifying stops (plus three online contenders) will meet in Santa Monica to face off for the championship. Stops are set to include Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando (Florida), Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.


Leger released its January 2017 Update on US Adults: Behavior Toward eSports, which notes that among adults 30-39, viewership is on the rise, with 30% having tuned in. Meanwhile, one in four adults overall say they would have a positive opinion of a brand if they advertised/sponsored an eSports event. Other notables include someone in the household watching eSports approaching to one-in-four; while one in six adults overall state they themselves have watched an eSports event.


From now through April, Cynopsis will be offering weekly updates for our upcoming Cynopsis World Esports Summit, set to take place on April 12 in NYC. Just ahead of the advertising upfronts, the event will see a slew of brands/media buyers in attendance interested in partnering in the esports space, along with our A-list lineup of speakers, exclusive research, breaking news and more! Click here for more information and to get tickets now.

A data stockpile! This year’s Summit will offer exclusive research not one but twice. Superdata Research CEO Joost Van Dreunen will follow the money in his exploration of the $1 billion industry. Meanwhile, the eSports Ad Bureau gives us a first look at its proprietary Brand Impact Research Study commissioned to define eSports viewers opinions on brand associations, led by Canoe’s Chris Pizzurro and EAB Executive Director Stuart Lipson.

Last call!! Do you have the next great esports game? How about a platform, league or event that could use some help to become the next phenomenon? If so, you need to take part in Bruin Battles! Taking place at the Cynopsis World eSports Summit on April 12 in NYC, and sponsored by Bruin Sports Capital, a select group of inventive attendees will have the opportunity to present their eSports idea on-stage in front of hundreds of attendees in a Shark-Tank style session with one lucky attendee having a shot to get their project funded. Deadline is tomorrow! Click here for more info and to get your plan into the spotlight and on the fast-track now!


Twitch is amplifying the power of its channels, serving up a new news feed, titled Pulse, that will allow users to view every post shared by their friends or users they follow in a single stream. The platform will also allow viewers to add posts directly from Twitch’s front page while broadcasters can share posts in Channel Feeds, supporting text; links; videos from Twitch, YouTube and Vimeo; and images from Imgur and Gfycat. Twitch’s Sheila Raju noted in the company blog that “For streamers, the posts you create on your Channel Feed will also appear on Pulse on the front page to all of your friends and followers. This will allow you to not only interact with followers and viewers you regularly engage with, but also with those who might not visit your channel page as frequently.”

Meanwhile, Twitch also opened the door to Collections, allowing viewers to showcase their lineup of streams by organizing collections to assist viewers find all the different types of content they share on Twitch more easily.
Sinclair Broadcast Group starting lining up markets for the phase I roll out of TBD, its new over-the-air TV network that will offer content that includes esports. Targeting the Millennial audience, Sinclair will distribute TBD to its television stations in many of the 81 US markets where it owns and/or operates a broadcasting property with 52 markets in the first wave of rollouts, including Seattle, Tallahassee, San Antonio, West Palm Beach, Fresno, Little Rock, Salt Lake City, Providence and DC. Content will be curated through partnerships with creators, including the likes of Jukin Video, Legendary Digital Networks (Nerdist & Geek and Sundry), Whistle Sports, Kinonation, Zoomin’, The QYOU, and Canvas Media Studios, among others with esports/gaming content anchored by series Big Red Lazor and 10 Up from Zoomin. TBD is also actively working to secure more games-based content with a range of potential content partners.

Twitter is partnering with ESL and DreamHack to live stream esports events and original content this year with a lineup that includes more than 15 events in the ESL One, Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) and DreamHack circuits. Coverage begins with Intel Extreme Masters Katowice on Saturday. Meanwhile, ESL will also produce live original content for Twitter, including a weekly 30-minute show featuring highlights and behind-the-scenes footage. All DreamHack events will also be live streamed, starting with DreamHack Austin in April. “Esports fans are endemic to digital and this partnership with Twitter expands ESL’s reach for all of our major tournaments for fans around the globe,” said Johannes Schiefer, Vice President Social Media & Editorial at ESL. “Intel Extreme Masters Katowice is our most anticipated live event, and we are excited to bring premier content from this tournament and beyond to more fans in a premium experience.”


Nintendo’s Switch debut was a record-breaker, with the company announcing that the console score new highs in its first weekend, beating every launch sales record for any Nintendo system in the Americas in history, according to The New York Times. In addition, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also drummed up enough sales to rank as the best-selling standalone launch title ever for Nintendo during the first two days of availability. Meanwhile, analysts are generally projecting overall sales of the console in year one to hit between 5 -10 million, depending on the report.

Square Enix’s Just Cause franchise reportedly getting the big screen treatment, courtesy of Avalanche Studios. Variety reports that a movie based on the game is currently in development with Jason Momoa set to take on the role of Rico Rodriguez.

5.11 is launching a four-part live-action video series for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands as the game makes its debut from Ubisoft. The series features elite operators utilizing 5.11 gear and the real-world tactics that the Wildlands’ Ghosts use in-game to battle the Santa Blanca Cartel, running across 5.11’s and Ubisoft’s social media channels.

Social gaming platform Roblox reports that more than 48 million monthly active players and 22 million online games are currently part of the platform, including 1.7 million game creators online. That number marks an uptick of more than two times the amount of game creators on the platform from one year ago. “Roblox is continuing to push the boundaries of user-generated play as we provide our developer community with better tools to create immersive social experiences across all platforms,” said David Baszucki, CEO and co-founder of Roblox. “We are excited to strengthen our infrastructure with more creative thinkers who can support our mission to power the imaginations of people around the world.”

Riot Games emerged triumphant in its lawsuit against the makers of LeagueSharp, a service that the court ruled violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by getting around Riot Games’ anti-cheating software to allow users to execute code scripts to alter the game. As a result, Riot will be paid $10 million with the court issuing a ban on LeagueSharp that prevents them from engaging with League of Legends and any other future Riot games as well hand over their LeagueSharp-affiliated websites to Riot.


Looking for funding? Are you ready to take eSports to the next level?
Then you need to take part in Bruin Battles! Taking place at the Cynopsis World eSports Summit on Wednesday, April 12 in NYC, and sponsored by Bruin Sports Capital, a select group of inventive attendees will have the opportunity to present their eSports idea (league, game, product, event, etc.) on-stage in front of hundreds of attendees in a Shark-Tank style session with one lucky attendee having a shot to get their project funded.

Get your plan into the spotlight and on the fast track now! http://www.cynopsisesportsconference.com/bruin-battles/.

POWER PLAYERS  MLG’s Marshall Zelaznik

After serving as a guiding hand for the rise of the UFC, former UFC Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik now has his eyes set on the esports world, where he has been named as its new global head of business development at MLG. At MLG.tv, Zelaznik will oversee maximizing the revenue opportunities around the distribution of MLG and Activision Blizzard’s eSports content, building and executing on the growth strategy for MLG’s proprietary content distribution platforms. Projects on Zelaznik’s plate currently include the Call of Duty World League as well as Activision Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch League.

Cynopsis asked Zelaznik about his new role, how it compares to MMA and what we can expect on MLG platforms.

Zelaznik on the shift to esports: I think that when I departed the UFC, which I spent ten years with the company and saw great success, it is hard to rerack what is going to be the next priority for you. The unique thing about the UFC, and the similarities became strikingly clear to me as I looked at this space, is that it has been around a long time, as has esports, and they both have a truly passionate fan base with the ability to go global. When I was being recruited by Activision Blizzard, they were saying all of the things I remember Lorenzo Fertitta saying when I was getting ready to join the UFC. You can feel the commitment, the passion and the vision and I really felt that my skillset could help here.

On similarities between MMA and esports fans: With MMA, there was an underground passion from fans and in a lot of ways, they liked that it was underground. In esports, they like the community that they’ve built and in the MMA space, there was also a real community and the groups the cover these sports have a real passion. The other similarity is competition and when you can expose the competition the way we did in UFC, you are able to find the people who didn’t realize that they were going to like this. Esports players have the same level of commitment as UFC athletes, and the prospect of exposing those stories is very similar.

On taking on MLG.tv: There are a lot of similarities with UFC Fight Pass. This is a community that has truly grown up in this digital space, although UFC was primarily a PPV product in the early days. Being that esports are digital, it is already global. So now it is a matter of making sure the content that we distribute is right for the platform and audience that is consuming it. I don’t have a strong opinion yet on the monetization portion of MLG.tv. UFC Fight Pass was a subscription production and I don’t see a scenario where we turn the knob and make fans pay for it all. But there may be value in this community where they may be inclined to pay a fee and get certain values around the games or the games themselves, although I’m still trying to get my head around that. We are also looking more into branded content.

On his role: The one thing that we are going to embark on as a team is imagining our platform and reenvisioning the functionality of that and the way consumers might engage with that content. Things I’m going to be directly involved with will be working directly with the game teams at Activision Blizzard as well as any third-party groups we work with to understand their objectives because at the heart of all of this is the game itself. What we need to do is to be additive to that, but still be authentic to gamers, and then create ways to create and distribute content that will connect with casual gamers as well. We’re going to be creating distribution strategies for content that takes advantage of all the platforms we have. We’ll also be really focused on the creation of new content. You have the game play, but we’ll be reimagining match play and the content around it. Is there an opportunity to create an Ultimate Fighter around this down the road, so people can understand the stories behind these athletes who are competing. Absolutely. We’ll also be taking pitches for long and short-form content here at MLG.tv with real money to go out into the market.

On approaching the launch of Overwatch League: I’ve been lucky to be involved in a lot of high-level meetings about it, but I think the one thing that the group is doing here is that they are being really calculating about how they are going about this. We’ve got the luxury of being able to think way outside the box about how to do this. If you were the NFL, knowing what you know, you probably would launch now with these big three-hour football games. We have the ability to turn this whole thing on its head and those considerations are being incubated now. When we ultimately unveil what the season will look like, I think that people will be surprised.

ON THIS DAY in 2008: Nintendo releases Super Smash Bros. Brawl.   
Trivia: Originally titled Dragon King: The Fighting Game, this title has since become a staple brawler title of the esports community. What is that franchise? (Email chris-sports@cynopsis.com with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: In honor of the new Nintendo Switch release, what is the name of the actor who has voiced Mario (among other characters) since 1995? Answer: Charles Martinet. Kudos: Chris Davies-Virgin/London; Glen Ross/DC; Daniel Hanson/Vail; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for Cynopsis | eSports @VegasandVine

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