01/19/22: Microsoft announced that it would buy Activision Blizzard

Medias First Morning Read
Wednesday January 19, 2022

The games industry saw another mega-deal with the news that Microsoft would acquire Activision Blizzard, the publisher behind franchises as Call of Duty, Overwatch, League of Legends, along with mobile titles such as Candy Crush, and more. Although the company is currently being sued by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing under CEO Bobby Kotick’s watch, he will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard. But, “once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, who was promoted to CEO, Microsoft Gaming.” The deal is reportedly valued at $68.7 billion, with the WSJ giving it a value of $75 billion, and is subject to regulatory approvals.

“Over many decades, the studios and teams that make up Activision Blizzard have earned vast wellsprings of joy and respect from billions of people all over the world,” said Spencer in a post announcing the deal. “We are incredibly excited to have the chance to work with the amazing, talented, dedicated people across Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, Beenox, Demonware, Digital Legends, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, King, Major League Gaming, Radical Entertainment, Raven Software, Sledgehammer Games, Toys for Bob, Treyarch and every team across Activision Blizzard.”

PROGRAMMING

The PGA TOUR and SiriusXM reached a multi-year extension to their broadcasting agreement, which will continue to deliver extensive tournament coverage on the SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio channel through 2024. “We are very pleased to extend our relationship with the PGA TOUR. Our extensive schedule of in-depth tournament broadcasts will continue to ensure golf fans can follow the best players in the world as they compete all season long,” said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s President and Chief Content Officer. “With live event broadcasts every week, and a daily original programming lineup that features some of the most entertaining voices in the game, the best golf coverage in audio entertainment, bar none, continues to be on SiriusXM.”

Shaquille O’Neal is on deck to leverage his business experience to guide and mentor small business owners through The Game Plan with Shaquille O’Neal a docuseries that will debut on Feb. 17, at 7p on TNT. Produced by Turner Sports, Shaquille O’Neal, and OBB Pictures, the weekly docuseries will highlight stories of Atlanta-based entrepreneurs as they receive business advice and identify new opportunities to sharpen their “game plan.” During the series, six entrepreneurs will present their products, encompassing streetwear, food and consumer packaged goods to O’Neal and his special guests including Quavo, Killer Mike, Lisa Leslie and Big Boi. Additionally, Bleacher Report will help to amplify each small business with exclusive merchandise, special discounts and more available through the B/R shop, app and social platforms at the conclusion of each episode.

Netflix is poised to serve up a docuseries about tennis after locking in a deal with the ATP Tour, the WTA and all four Grand Slam tournaments. Beginning with the ongoing Australian Open, the series will offer an ‘unfiltered look’ inside professional tennis through the perspective of players and their teams.

Back on the Record with Bob Costas is back for its second season with an all-new episode on Friday at 11p on HBO. The brand-new episode will feature interviews with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and broadcasting’s Al Michaels. Former NFL cornerback and television/radio personality Domonique Foxworth and author/columnist Howard Bryant will join contributor Bomani Jones for the in-studio roundtable discussion.

Former NBA star Rex Chapman is joining CNN as a host for CNN+, the streaming subscription service that will debut in Q1 2022. His weekly show on the platform will include intimate conversations with “athletes, entertainers and everyday heroes as Chapman looks for the silver lining beyond today’s toughest headlines.”

Clock’s ticking, get ‘em in! Nominations for the Cynopsis Sports Media Awards are now being taken for their year’s ceremony, taking place on April 19, live (hopefully) in NYC. New categories are seeking champions! Have a gander by clicking here.

ESPN and ABC will deliver 13.5 hours of live competition, with an additional 7.5 additional hours streamed for the X Games. X Games Aspen begins Friday with five competition windows exclusively available via streaming on the @XGames social media and the ESPN App, before moving to ESPN for primetime coverage of the Monster Energy Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe and fan-favorite Snowboard Knuckle Huck competitions. Saturday and Sunday host a full slate of X Games action with an ABC and ESPN window each day.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

The LPGA announced that Velocity Global, a provider of global expansion solutions, has been named the Official Global Work Platform of the LPGA and Ladies European Tour in a multi-year deal. Velocity Global will work with the LPGA Tour and LET to “highlight the global impact of their players, representing more than 60 countries, through enhanced storytelling opportunities and player recognition.” The partnership introduces the Velocity Global Impact Award, celebrating players who have helped to grow the sport of golf and inspire the next generation of athletes through their actions. More details on the Velocity Global Impact Award, including the structure of the 2022 nominations, will be shared in the coming months.

Michelob ULTRA, the official beer sponsor of the NBA, is serving its first-ever line of uniquely designed, limited-edition NBA team cans for fans of 18 teams across the league. The NBA team cans were designed by four emerging artists at the intersection of streetwear, sports and entertainment to bring “the cans to life in a way that represents each city and brings joy to fans.”

Klarna is teaming up with the Chicago Bulls in an alliance that will promote Klarna’s all-in-one shopping service to fans, with the aim to bring audiences closer to the game via unique co-branded in-stadium experiences, shoppable content, exclusive offers, limited edition merchandise, and more. In separate deals, Bulls stars Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball have partnered with Klarna as brand ambassadors.

Sugarlands Distilling Co., along with racing star Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wife Amy Earnhardt, announced the launch of High Rock, a new brand of premium vodka produced at Sugarlands’ distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Sugarlands and the Earnhardts announced a strategic partnership together in September. In addition to High Rock Vodka, Sugarlands’ Electric Orange Sippin’ Cream has been rechristened Dale and Amy’s Electric Orange Sippin’ Cream.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

The PGA TOUR and Twitter announced a renewal of their content agreement designed to support the TOUR’s creation of exclusive content for Twitter’s new live audio feature, Spaces. As part of the agreement, the PGA TOUR will continue to publish real-time highlights each day of every official PGA TOUR tournament. Additionally, the PGA TOUR will make branded and player-specific highlights and weekly Twitter Moments recapping tournament play available for sponsorship with Twitter Amplify.

The New York Rangers announced the launch of the first-ever Rangers NFT products leading up to Henrik Lundqvist Night presented by Chase, on Jan. 28. Over 5,000 limited edition items with tiered prizes and experiences will be available on Rangers.dropshop.io. “We are constantly looking for fresh and innovative ways to engage with our fans, and we see the emergence of digital collectibles, which combines sports and technology, as a fun way for fans to connect with the team. Tying in the first-ever Rangers NFT products with the Henrik Lundqvist Night game is the perfect way to celebrate this,” said David Hopkinson, Executive Vice Present of MSG Sports and President of Team Business Operations.

Meta and LaLiga are teaming up to introduce “LaLiga 3 to Win,” a new Facebook Fantasy Game that enables fans to predict the winning club – or predict a draw – for select LaLiga matches this season. Players earn points for a correct pick, with the goal being to accumulate as many points as possible over the remainder of the season.

The National Lacrosse League announced an extension and expansion of its partnership with BetMGM to serve as an Official Sports Betting partner of the NLL. The two companies have extended their partnership agreement for an additional year, with greater investment and a focus on innovation. As part of the agreement, BetMGM and the NLL will work together to provide odds for regular season and post-season NLL games in the 2021-22 season.

ESPORTS

FlyQuest named Mastercard as the Official Financial Services Partner of their League of Legends teams with the brand showcased on team jerseys throughout the 2022 LCS Season. “We have always been committed to ensuring that any partner that joins the FlyQuest family must match our values, which is why I’m so thrilled FlyQuest is partnering with Mastercard,” said FlyQuest CEO Tricia Sugita. “Together, FlyQuest and Mastercard will be bringing a synergistic partnership that emphasizes our shared values.”

Riot Games renewed its partnership with Red Bull and Warner Music for the fourth year in a row, in addition to welcoming back Secretlab as the Official Gaming Chair Partner for the LEC and EU Masters. Red Bull will create content activations that will appear throughout LEC events and also promoting grassroots LoL esports over the next 12 months. Further, Red Bull Solo Q, the official 1v1 League of Legends tournament, in which fans can compete against each other, is returning for 2022.

Riot is also tapping the services of Nerd Street Gamers to serve as its exclusive partner for stage one of the 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour in North America where the company will oversee operations and broadcast. VCT Stage 1: Challengers NA will begin play with two 128-team Open Qualifiers, should launch later this month. Nerd Street Gamers will also operate all of Riot Games’ Game Changers series in North America this year.

ONE Esports inked a long-term partnership with Samsung in Southeast Asia that will see ONE Esports develop an exclusive ONE Esports mobile app for Samsung devices in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, that will be launched in the second half of 2022. The app will be positioned as the go-to source for esports news and content in Southeast Asia, and will be integrated into the ONE Esports media ecosystem.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

The Premier Hockey Federation announced a commitment from the Board of Governors that will see an investment of over $25 million in direct payments and benefits to its players over the next three years. The pledge includes more than $7.5 million in salary and benefits for the 2022-23 season. At the heart of the investment is a substantial salary cap increase to $750,000 for next year, 150 percent more than the current record figure of $300,000 that is available per team. The PHF currently has six franchises including the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, and Toronto Six. Details for the PHF’s planned expansion of a seventh team in Montreal, Quebec, and the potential for additional clubs to broaden its United States footprint will be announced at a later date.

DAZN Group revealed a new Group structure and some leadership changes with Shay Segev becoming sole CEO of DAZN Group. James Rushton, DAZN Co-Founder, will continue with his existing responsibilities overseeing growth in local markets, rights and content. Additionally, Darren Waterman joins as Group CFO, based in London.

Sports Turf Managers Association rebranded as Sports Field Management Association, described as a modern identity that aligns with its membership makeup and further positions the association as a champion for all workers in the sports field industry. The effort includes an updated logo, tagline, website and vision for the future.

FITE named Josh Shernoff as Director of Programming, where he joins the platform to produce and edit new shows, lead other promotional and programming efforts around live events – as well as continuing his on-air appearances and interviews.

ESPN signed Kendra Andrews to a multi-year agreement where she will serve as an NBA reporter, primarily covering the Golden State Warriors. Andrews will write and report for ESPN.com while also contributing reports to various ESPN television platforms, including its NBA programming and SportsCenter.

Global sports marketing agency SPORTFIVE announced a new leadership team for its U.S. Brand Consulting Division that includes Brendan Moynihan, and Josh Wollock, both Executive Vice President, Consulting, and Lindsay Brinkmann, Senior Vice President, Consulting. SPORTFIVE will now work to further integrate the Consulting Division into its larger global business across multiple divisions, most notably its Global Sales and Activation businesses.

Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment announced that president and CEO Michael Friisdahl will step down at the end of next month to join Signature Aviation as its chairman. Friisdahl joined MLSE in 2015.

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