Activision Blizzard is taking eSports seriously

Some trends emerged in the company’s latest results which suggest that this is a major direction for the company moving forward. Also, that it’s part of a bigger strategy than just running tournaments and thereby generating interest and selling more games.

There has been the recent acquisition of MLG of course, and also the hiring of an ESPN exec, but CEO Bobby Kotick made a much clearer argument for the direction the company is going in the future.

“Upon the expected close of our acquisition of King later this month, we’ll have over half a billion monthly active users in 196 countries, which as an entertainment network ranks only behind Facebook, YouTube, and WeChat in monthly active users. We’ll have seven times the audience members of Netflix and have a larger audience than Snapchat and Twitter combined.”

“Last year our Activision Blizzard games were played for over 14 billion hours, and spectators watched over 1.5 billion hours of video content based on our games. In 2014-2015 season, fans of the NFL watched about 7 billion hours of nationally televised games, which is less than half the time spent engaged with our franchises. Those televised games generated approximately 7 billion dollars of broadcast rights fees for the NFL, and another 4 billion dollars in other revenues, including sponsorships, merchandise, and ticket sales.”

“When we think about our franchises, we think about our responsibilities to our fans and the associated business opportunities through the lens of these leagues, like the NFL, the Premier League, the NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NHL.”

Call-of-Duty-eSports_Ghosts_3Sprts_ParallaxAnd Kotick says that this way of looking at things will generate revenue: “Our franchises today generate revenues principally through the sale of interactive content,” he observed. Those other monies that sports leagues pull in? That’s a wide-open field for Activision Blizzard. “We continue to believe that eSports is another long-term growth pillar for our company,” he said.

“When you look at ESPN, with 80 million subscribers and you see the flight of some of those subscribers, and the opportunity that we see there is roughly $5 billion of operating profit there, $4 billion of league payments for the broadcast rights. And we have 80 million of our own players, and over a long period of time we think that watching a video game competition is going to be a tremendous opportunity.”