MLG maps road past Checkpoint

Amid the crowds that flocked to Anaheim for BlizzCon last week, anchoring the center of the event for the first time, was MLG, which launched a slate of new media initiatives at the event under a new logo to mark the next chapter in the brand’s storied run in esports. Serving up production that included the series MLG Checkpoint, along with a new digital home at MLG.com and new mobile apps, MLG continues to evolve under recent executive hires, and continues to reposition its media platforms and content in addition to its run of events such as the Call of Duty World League.

Cynopsis caught up with Martin Keely, Head of Operations, MLG Networks at ‎Major League Gaming to break down the company’s media plan moving forward.

On MLG’s approach to Blizzcon: BlizzCon was interesting for us this year because it was the first time that MLG really had a runway to prepare and plan its participation as part of the Blizzard family. So the opportunity that the programming team saw was the chance to create the show Checkpoint, which brings the best of all Blizzard esports to our desk, and bring some of the athletes and participants the opportunity to talk about their own experiences and share that out. So I think this marks a foundational step to start to demonstrate that MLG is part of the Blizzard universe and talk to the fans here so that they are aware of MLG as the platform and place to watch premier esports content. This has also been a terrific opportunity for us to build relationships throughout the company and develop a lot of original programs, with Checkpoint being the first of many to come.

On goals: There are two main businesses now for MLG. The first is operating professional leagues such Overwatch League and getting that off the ground this year as well as Call of Duty World League. The other big part of the business, which I am really focused on, is the media business. We want to develop MLG as a digital network where people can come to watch the best esports and we will be broadcasting and streaming thousands of hours of events and not just from Blizzard and Activision, but also with third-party games. We are working with Gears of Wars currently. We want to be the top destination for the best esports content and we are first starting by relaunching MLG under MLG.com, as we acquired that domain. I think MLG has this unique place in the esports landscape, it is a pioneer and we want to expand and build on that.

On the future: Eventually, we will look at MLG that same way some traditional media companies operate their sports networks where you will find MLG-powered experiences in and around Blizzard games and on other digital platforms where we can participate as a partner. We are just getting started on that journey but first we wanted to build a strong foundation of our apps. The road ahead will be about how we find the right distribution for this network.

On Overwatch League content: MLG will be responsible for producing broadcasts for it. Everything related to the live events that are either streamed or televised – depending on how our media deals work out – as well as shoulder programming that goes along with the league such as pre- and post-shows as well as the story-telling of the athletes and the teams. We are starting a new league so a lot of these players may be well known to the esports community, but we want to capture casual fans as well. So we are going to be doing reality, behind-the-scenes programming so people know about the training and work that goes into play.

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