Last month’s news that esports heavyweight Team Liquid sold the controlling interest in their team to an ownership group led by sports pillars Peter Guber and Ted Leonsis shook up media that had been shy about the industry’s growth. The group, called aXiomatic, sees Bruce Stein serving as CEO and is backed by Monumental Sports & Entertainment, one of the largest sports and entertainment companies in the country. Other investors include range from the likes of Magic Johnson and Steve Case to NextVR and Tony Robbins. –
Cynopsis eSports & Gaming spoke with one key player that made the deal happen, Zachary Leonsis – VP and General Manager of Monumental Sports Network – about the company’s investment in the space, aXiomatic’s recent acquisition of Super League Gaming, and how the company’s OTT platform was launched with an eye on competitive gaming.
On Monumental’s interest in esports: We have been patiently waiting and studying esports for the past two-plus years and there were a couple of things that struck us. The first is that there were a lot of moving pieces in esports that were very organic. The way publishers interact with tournament organizers, the way tournament organizers interact with franchises, etc. It takes a while to understand each of the layers, and you learn that credibility is an incredibly important aspect to getting involved with the industry. These gamers, players and athletes deserve respect for their craft and skillset. Everyone reads about these big championships in New York or LA, and – frankly – we want to host some of them as well. But it isn’t that easy, you have to earn your stripes and build trust.
On traditional sports: There are definitely advantages that NBA or NHL owners can provide to the esports world that include infrastructure, a localized approach, partnership sales, introductions to world-class brands, venue management, ticket sales for events, media properties, etc. So there is no doubt that one of the reasons we are so excited to be launching an OTT platform is because we do think eSports is a big deal and it will only become more important as time goes on. Clearly the preferred method of content consumption around esports is via OTT distribution through apps, Twitch, YouTube, etc. so that’s where the brands are. We would love to put together esports-dedicated programming for our platform. There are a lot of pieces in play, but we are looking forward to working with Team Liquid to see what we can do and how we can be helpful to the team.
On the prospect of tying esports teams to cities: I find the approach of the Overwatch League to be really interesting and there probably will be more leagues that follow that model. But it may not be the best approach for all leagues or teams. So much of the popularity of esports is organically grown and they have a really great thing going so some of these competitions and competitors may better off sticking to the structure they currently have.
On future investment: They made an investment in Super League Gaming, which is like the Little League of esports so there are a lot of possibilities there. I think that that aXiomatic sees a lot of value surrounding business with business such as merchandising, media, and a lot of other places where we can help add some value. We think it is really a worthwhile space to be a part of and we are thrilled.