05/25/17: Sportsnet flips the switch; Xbox makes a pass; Catalyst’s Sandbox effect

It’s Thursday May 25, 2017 and this is your weekly early morning eSports & Gaming brief.

Another big media deal for ESL. After announcing a partnership with Facebook last week (see below), the company locked in a deal with Canada’s Sportsnet for exclusive rights to ESL’s esportsTV. Launching this fall, esportsTV will be offered exclusively in Canada on Sportsnet NOW. In addition, a weekly esports news, highlights and analysis program will air on Sportsnet 360 beginning in July. The new deal makes Rogers the first telecommunications company in the country to lock in exclusive rights to esports content.
“Sportsnet prides itself on being on the cutting edge of industry trends so we can continue to deliver premier sports experiences for our viewers,” said Jason Badal, Sr. Director, Business Affairs, Sportsnet. “Esports is on the cusp of becoming a global phenomenon and we are excited to bring this coveted content to Canadians.”

As the esports market matures, IP owners continue forward in stepping up their roles in competitive play, as Riot Games laid out its gameplan for Rift Rivals, a League of Legends event slated to take place around the world from July 3-9 with five tournaments featuring 13 regions in play. Competition will pit North America/Europe on July 6-8, and Latin America North/Brazil/Latin America South from July 5-8. In other rivalry games, the Commonwealth of Independent States faces Turkey from July 6-9. Southeast Asia/Oceania/Japan battle from July 3-6 and Korea/LMS/China on July 6-9.
Meanwhile, IEM announced via Reddit that that circuit would no longer feature competition for Riot Games’ League of Legends, at least for the current season. IEM’s Michael Blicharz noted that, “Our 2017 events won’t happen to be in a period where pro LCS teams are free to compete. In discussions with Riot it was also determined that LCS wouldn’t pause for Katowice. This means that for the first time since 2011 LoL won’t be there. I am sad I won’t see some of you there next year.”
Amid preparation for Overwatch League, Blizzard announced plans for Overwatch Contenders, a development league designed for aspiring Overwatch League professionals. The league will launch this summer in North America and Europe. Once Overwatch Contenders is running, teams will have additional opportunities to enter the competitive scene via the Overwatch Open Division, a tournament series for Masters rank players or higher that will take place in select regions around the world, and in 2018, will offer emerging teams a path to Overwatch Contenders seasons in each region. The North American Open qualifier will take place on June3-4 for season 0 of Overwatch Contenders.
ESL announced that it will live stream exclusive esports events and original content on Facebook. The esports league will stream content that includes Rank S competitions, an elite ladder for the CS:GO community, as well as an exclusive weekly 30-minute CS:GO program that showcases the best players, upcoming talent and competition highlights. Meanwhile, all ESL One and IEM events will also stream globally on ESL’s Facebook network in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and German, with more than 5,500 hours of esports content headed set for Facebook. “With over 1.94 billion monthly active users on Facebook, this is a huge step toward expanding the reach of esports among mainstream audiences,” said Johannes Schiefer, Vice President of Social Media and Editorial at ESL. “Last year, ESL content generated over 2 billion impressions and reached over 200 million users on Facebook globally. Now, with the addition of live streaming for all major ESL events, as well as exclusive content around CS:GO and ESEA, we are excited to expand our reach to more audiences and build strong local communities of highly engaged esports fans.”
Psyonix is partnering with DreamHack for two upcoming Rocket League tournaments, including DreamHack Summer and DreamHack Atlanta. Both events will be showcased on Twitch with a 32-team registration for 3v3 tournaments with a combined prize pool of $100,000. DreamHack Summer runs in Jonkoping, Sweden from June 17-18, while DreamHack Atlanta spans July 21-23.
ELeague wraps up up its first-ever Street Fighter V Invitational tomorrow with the Semifinals and Grand Final live on TBS at 10p. Tournament action begins at 5p with live event coverage across Twitch, YouTube and live.eleague.com from the G Fuel ELEAGUE Arena in Atlanta.
The Olympic Council of Asia unveiled a four-title esports lineup for the 5th Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games this Sept. TEO writes that Dota 2, Starcraft II, Hearthstone and either FIFA or NBA will be on the agenda. All 45 Asian and 19 Oceanic nations will be able to submit no more than two players/team per category.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest and Microsoft a revving up for a 24 Hours of Le Mans esports event, lining up the Forza Racing Championship Season 3: The Porsche Cup Elite finals for June 17-18 where it will run beside the famed endurance race. To open the partnership, ACO is launching an Official Endurance esports Category. Meanwhile, the victors of the Forza RC finals will be awarded their trophy on the same 24 Hours of Le Mans podium as the victors of the race. Over a hundred gamers will be present in the Race Village at Le Mans to take part in the event.
Gfinity locked in its schedule for this summer’s Gfinity Elite Series, announcing that the Elite Series Draft will take place on June 16, with the tournament beginning July 7 and running for nine consecutive weekends. The league will be made up of eight professional eSports teams, allowing ‘challenger series’ and ‘Elite series draft’ amateur gamers to qualify to play for some top teams.

Source: Superdata

Dr. Pepper is getting another taste of esports, as mousesports announced the beverage brand as its new partner. The deal kicks in with the brand’s logo set to appear on mousesports jerseys at the ESL Pro League Finals in Dallas. “Competitive gaming has been growing in popularity for a while now. It’s a shift in entertainment and culture. Dr. Pepper Germany is honored to partner with mousesports and take the next step in a community that Dr. Pepper has been part of for years now,” said Krombacher Chief Digital Officer Sven Markschlager.
Ahead of the Halo Championship Series: Pro League Summer 2017 season, ESL and 343 Industries named ASTRO as the Official Communications Partner of the HCS Pro League this year. In addition to supporting the Summer and Fall seasons in Europe and North America, ASTRO will also provide headsets, earbuds, and MixAmps at both DreamHack Atlanta and DreamHack Denver.
G FUEL released part two of its “Life of FaZe” documentary series, spotlighting the path of the FaZe Clan professional Call of Duty team through the CWL Dallas Open. Part two showcases what goes on behind-the-scenes at the event, and can be seen here .
Amazon’s mobile department locked in a one-year sponsorship deal with NRG Esports. The deal marks Amazon’s first sponsorship in the category, with its App Store platform and Coins virtual currency serving as title sponsor for NRG’s Hearthstone and Vainglory teams. The deal will also see NRG teams do a roadshow of Amazon-hosted events.

Microsoft unleashed a short video confirming the launch of Xbox Game Pass on June 1, designed to offer a subscription-driven on-demand service that lets players download a range of titles from its game library for $9.99 a month, with games that include the likes of Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16, and LEGO Batman. Xbox Live members can already start their free trial windows, a week before the official launch.
Meanwhile, Sony reports that the number of paid PlayStation Plus subscriptions hit 26.4 million in 2016, up 27% over 2015. The numbers were shared as part of the company’s investor relations day,
Take-Two’s fourth quarter and fiscal year earnings revealed that Grand Theft Auto V has now surpassed 80 million sales since launch in Sept. 2013. Meanwhile, NBA 2K17 is also poised to rank as the publisher’s highest-selling sports title of all time, with a sell-in of nearly 8 million units so far.
Activision Blizzard is tackling this week’s Licensing Expo 2017 with the newly-formed Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group making its debut at the Expo with properties that include Call of Duty, Skylanders and Destiny from Activision; Overwatch, Hearthstone and World of Warcraft from Blizzard Entertainment; and Candy Crush from King. “Activision Blizzard has evolved from launching videogames to building long-lasting, trans-media entertainment franchises that drive engagement. The recently formed Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group is poised to leverage our powerhouses such as Blizzard’s Overwatch and Activision’s Call of Duty in new ways, especially as our esports business continues to grow,” said Tim Kilpin, CEO and president, Activision Blizzard Consumer Products Group. “We’re looking to give our fans new ways to play, display, wear and live the brands they love.”


is reporting progress on its strike against certain game publishers, noting that it had signed 30 games from more than 20 companies to its negotiated video game agreements, noting that “new deals are being signed every week” under terms that include secondary compensation, transparency and safety. “This is a crucial time. The video game companies are getting ready to start production on a slate of new titles. They need and want our members’ talent to be on their games,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris in the org’s publication.


POWER PLAYERS – Catalyst Sports & Media

Catalyst Sports & Media is opening a new facility, announcing the launch of Sandbox Esports, described as a first of its kind esports training facility and program where esports franchises, Counter Logic Gaming and FlyQuest recently trained. The training program and facility is located within Sports Academy’s 96,000 square facility in Thousand Oaks, CA and blends aspects of physical training exercises (weights, cardio, core exercises, etc.), cognitive development (hand-eye coordination, reaction time, etc.) and an in-game esports training component with an initial focus on League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Overwatch and NBA 2K.
Cynopsis spoke with Happy Walters, Co-Founder and CEO of Catalyst Sports & Media, about the new facility as well as his company’s forays into esports, including team advisory, market overview and brand development.
Walters on where esports fits: We’ve been involved in esports since 2012. When I was at Relativity Sports, we invested in Major League Gaming and we were on their advisory board where we were able to help them market themselves and get out there. So we learned about the esports space back then, and when we left Relativity to start Catalyst, we knew that esports was a high-growth area that we knew had a lot of upside and we wanted to focus on both on the team side, league side and sponsorship side.
On Sandbox Esports: Sports Academy is a 100,000 square foot training facility that focuses on amateurs and pros, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. The owner of it and I are friends and we started talking about doing some kind of esports training facility last August. He wasn’t familiar about esports but quickly learned about the industry so he put aside a few thousand square feet where it could be developed and that’s where the computers, screens and playback are and will be incorporated with sports science, physical fitness and sports psychology.
On other esports endeavors: We are now advising a lot of brands and owners about how to get in the space the right way, what are good investments, for brands how to do it endemically and be part of the community, etc. We are also helping on buy/sell for some of the teams that are looking for investors as League of Legends is going to franchise shortly, as well Overwatch. Eventually we may or may not get into personalities and players as well. Lastly, we are developing properties, with Sandbox being one, but there are a several others in and around the world of esports that we are going to announce shortly.

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