Esports have only continued to grow in recent years, with millions tuning in online to watch the championships for games like League of Legends and Dota 2. It's big business, so it's no surprise that Activision Blizzard is looking to double down on its recent eSport efforts with the creation of a new eSports division.
The publisher has hired two big names to help make eSports a priority: Major League Gaming co-founder Mike Sepso and former ESPN and NFL Network CEO Steve Bornstein. Together, the two will be helping to guide some of Activision Blizzard's eSport efforts, though the individual teams currently organizing eSport events around Activision Blizzard games like Call of Duty and Hearthstone will remain.
"It will evolve over time to be more integrated with each team at different levels, depending on the game," Sepso tells Game Informer. "At the end of the day, the people developing the games know their communities and their games better."
In a press release, Bornstein made clear just how popular eSports have become.
"Last year, Activision Blizzard created entertainment that was viewed and played by over 150 million people for more than 13 billion hours — this dwarfs the engagement that fans spend on all other sports," Bornstein said in the statement. "I believe eSports will rival the biggest traditional sports leagues in terms of future opportunities, and between advertising, ticket sales, licensing, sponsorships and merchandising, there are tremendous growth areas for this nascent industry. I'm excited to help Activision Blizzard further its leadership position in this exciting growth area."
Bornstein perhaps has more experience than anybody else in the world at finding ways to monetize sporting events, so his hiring makes perfect sense. Sepso says Steve's experience will help as the division looks to the future of eSports.
"ESPN has done a better job than anyone at creating a branded content network around [sports] activity," Sepso says. "Steve has experience in all of that, and many of those lessons learned over the past 30 years will be critical to us as we look to evolve eSports into something bigger and better. I think that one thing that's happening inversely or negatively to the traditional world is that more young people are not getting cable. They're incredibly focused on digital. That's an area where we can do some very interesting things, because our audience is natively a digital audience. I think there's a rich amount of experience on both sides to pull from to continually put forward analogs, but also to innovate."
Activision recently announced a Call of Duty World League, where pro-gamers will compete for a $3 million prize pool.