eSports Week In Review | Monetization Platform Fan.AI Raises $1.8M, Mountain Dew's Investment and Versus Sports Signs 5 EA Madden NFL Athletes

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | MONETIZATION PLATFORM FAN.AI RAISES $1.8M, MOUNTAIN DEW'S INVESTMENT AND VERSUS SPORTS SIGNS 5 EA MADDEN NFL ATHLETES

eSports Week In Review (Photo: CC License)

eSports Week In Review (Photo: CC License)

TNL Take: This week was a special one for the with 2 separate partnerships: Loot Ventures first investment in eSports monetization platform Fan.AI, and Versus Sports signing 5 EA Madden NFL Athletes for the upcoming Madden 18 season.

[Disclaimer: The Next Level is part of the the portfolio of companies with Loot Ventures and Versus Sports]

 

MONDAY 07/31

eSports Monetization Platform FanAI Raises $1.8M From Pro Sports VC's, Greycroft And Loot Ventures

eSports Monetization Platform Fan.AI Raises $1.8M (Photo: Fan.AI)

eSports Monetization Platform Fan.AI Raises $1.8M (Photo: Fan.AI)

Mountain Dew Sponsors 3 eSports Teams (Photo: Splyce)

Mountain Dew Sponsors 3 eSports Teams (Photo: Splyce)

Versus Sports EA Madden NFL 18 Team (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

Versus Sports EA Madden NFL 18 Team (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

 

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

eSports Week In Review | Exclusive: 4 Of WME-IMG eSports Team Leave, ESL CEO Podcast, Dr. Pepper

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | EXCLUSIVE: 4 OF WME-IMG ESPORTS TEAM LEAVE, ESL CEO PODCAST, DR. PEPPER

Blizzard Reveals More Info About Overwatch League (Photo: Blizzard)

Blizzard Reveals More Info About Overwatch League (Photo: Blizzard)

TNL Take: This week's review was an unusual one as it started over the weekend rather than Monday. This past Sunday, The Next Level broke the news that I had been working on for a few days that 4 members of WME-IMG's eSports team was leaving. There is a much deeper story here and will have more on that once the dust has settled.

 

MONDAY 07/24

Exclusive: 4 Of WME-IMG's eSports Team Leave

4 Of WME-IMG eSports Team Leave (Photo: WME-IMG)

4 Of WME-IMG eSports Team Leave (Photo: WME-IMG)

TNL eSports Guest Podcast 006: Craig Levine, ESL CEO North America (Graphic: The Next Level)

TNL eSports Guest Podcast 006: Craig Levine, ESL CEO North America (Graphic: The Next Level)

 

WEDNESDAY 07/26

The Next Level Daily Newsletter was off

 

THURSDAY 07/27

Beverage Brands Barge Into eSports - Part 1: Dr. Pepper

Dr. Pepper Signs Agreement with Mousesports in May 2017 (Photo: Mousesports)

Dr. Pepper Signs Agreement with Mousesports in May 2017 (Photo: Mousesports)

 

Wait, why is there a logo about Activision-Blizzard's upcoming Overwatch League but no info?

Because The Next Level is working on something unique that will be published next week that goes deeper into what has and has not been revealed.

Also, look out for some more interesting news next week 😉

 

Have a great weekend!

Brands Investing In eSports On Pace To Double 2016

BRANDS INVESTING IN ESPORTS ON PACE TO DOUBLE 2016

TNL Infographic 032: 2016 eSports Brand Investment (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 032: 2016 eSports Brand Investment (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Take: 2017 has seen an increase in eSports investment continue across the board: Pro Sports teams, Media deals, TV content and startups.

What's been the most surprising to me - in a good way - are brands continuing to investigate and increase their investment in the space with 50+ brands last year.

Through the first half of 2017, 60+ brands have jumped in and at current pace should double 2016's total.

The biggest category increases?

Auto, Alcohol and Beverage, some of the top overall brand spenders. This is fantastic to see and more news on the horizon should help spur more brands sitting on the sidelines to get in the game.

 

[Edit: This list will be formatted by category and brand shortly]

Movie Theaters and eSports: The Golden Opportunity

MOVIE THEATERS AND ESPORTS: THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

Movie Theaters and eSports: The Golden Opportunity (Photo: ESL )

Movie Theaters and eSports: The Golden Opportunity (Photo: ESL )

TNL Take: A lot of sports Executives see the large, cheering crowds at eSports events at places like the Oracle Arena, Barclays Center and the hallowed Madison Square Garden and get excited about the future potential.

While seeing 20,000 people do the wave at MSG is pretty amazing, in 2017 there maybe 4 nights of eSports events - compared to close to 100 nights with just the New York Knicks and Rangers alone.

While it works, the current quantity of eSports events is just not there yet to continually fill stadiums.  However there maybe a real-estate opportunity that already exists that could be a perfect fit: Movie Theaters.

Here's a look back at how movie theaters and eSports became connected and what the future holds.

 

2015: SUPER LEAGUE GAMING RAISES ~$6M TO BRING ESPORTS TO THEATERS

Super League Gaming's Minecraft Event (Photo: Miriam Di Nunzio/Sun-Times)

Super League Gaming's Minecraft Event (Photo: Miriam Di Nunzio/Sun-Times)

Super League Gaming made their entrance into eSports by raising ~$6M through essentially Series A/B rounds in 2015.

Working with Canada's 3 largest movie chains - Cinemark Theaters (which invested in their Series B) Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Theaters and iPic Theaters -  SLG allows gamers to play together on the big screen.

After a 25 city test, Super League Gaming launched their Minecraft league in the Fall of 2015. Players bring their laptops, phones, iPads to the theater and play directly on their devices and then SLG's magic tech combines all the action where everyone can view it on the screen. 

I love this idea and will dig in deeper why it works so well.

 

2015: COCA-COLA HOSTS LEAGUE OF LEGENDS FINALS VIEWING PARTIES ACROSS THE US

Coca-Cola League Of Legends Theater Viewing Party (Photo: Coca-Cola)

Coca-Cola League Of Legends Theater Viewing Party (Photo: Coca-Cola)

When Coca-Cola invests in any new area, they tend to focus on what associates them with a large global Brand. Which in eSports in 2015 - and even today - is League of Legends.

In August, the League of Legends Summer Split, which has two teams battling to get an automatic slot into the the World Championship, was shown in 30 theaters across the US

The theaters ranged from Atlanta, New York, Chicago to smaller locales like Leawood, Kansas and Lancaster, Ohio.

Let's also not forget Coca-Cola sells a ton of product in theaters.
 

2015: CANADA'S CINEPLEX INVESTS $15M INTO ESPORTS

Cineplex Invests $15M Into eSports (Photo: Cineplex)

Cineplex Invests $15M Into eSports (Photo: Cineplex)

Just a month after Amazon bought Twitch for $1B, Cineplex announced they were going to buy a majority stake in WorldGaming, a gaming tournament platform, for $10 million and invest another $5M to create an eSports league across their chain of theaters.

Cineplex has 162 theaters across the country with 1,652 screens, visited by 74 million people annually, which is about half of Canada's population.

 

2015: COCA-COLA HOSTS LEAGUE OF LEGENDS FINALS VIEWING PARTIES AT 7 CINEMARK THEATERS

Coca-Cola's 2nd League of Legends Viewing Party (Photo: Coke eSports)

Coca-Cola's 2nd League of Legends Viewing Party (Photo: Coke eSports)

After their first foray into bringing eSports to the big screen, Coca-Cola will be replicating that experience across 7 Cinemark Theater locations.

Two things that Coke expanded on from their 1st program: 1) Collectible cups and branded thundersticks, which are those "baseball bat" looking things that fans use to cheer on their team. 2) Allowed fans to vote for additional cities if they weren't near locations like Salt Lake City or Los Angeles.

 

2015: BY EXPERIENCE BRING'S ESL ONE'S FINALS TO THEATERS IN 25+ COUNTRIES

BY Experience and ESL Bring eSports To Theaters In 30 Countries (Photo: BY/ESL)

BY Experience and ESL Bring eSports To Theaters In 30 Countries (Photo: BY/ESL)

ESL, BY Experience and Fathom events decided to take Coke's theater initiatives and make it even bigger by showing ESL One Counter-Strike Finals which took place in Cologne, Germany in screens in over 25 additional countries

Another interesting angle was having an eSports commentator exclusively for the cinema experience.

 

2016: COCA-COLA SHOWS OVERWATCH CONTENT IN THEATERS

Coke3.png

Coca-Cola's 3rd foray into their theater partnership was associated with the launch of Blizzard's Overwatch.

While this wasn't associated with an eSports event, fans got to see cinematics, shorts and short films around the heroes in the game.

One issue was that the content wasn't exclusive to the theater experience which I'm sure Coke learned from.

 

2016: COCA-COLA DOUBLES-DOWN ON LEAGUE OF LEGENDS VIEWING PARTIES WITH A TWIST

Coke's Twist To Theater Viewing Parties (Photo: Coke eSports)

Coke's Twist To Theater Viewing Parties (Photo: Coke eSports)

We've gone through a few of Coca-Cola's theater sponsorships but last year they added a new feature

The change in this partnership is that theaters won’t actually hold the 2016 League of Legends viewing event unless a minimum number of tickets are sold.  This allows individual theaters to essentially decide if eSports or a regular viewing would make them more revenue. 

Smart on both sides as Coke doesn't need to guarantee a minimum and the theaters can show eSports or whatever they were going to play anyways.

My estimate is that theaters needed to sell 200 tickets for it to be shown.

 

2017: SUPER LEAGUE GAMING LAUNCHES LEAGUE OF LEGENDS CITY REC

Super League Gamings City Based League (Photo: Super League Gaming)

Super League Gamings City Based League (Photo: Super League Gaming)

After initially starting with Minecraft, Super League Gaming launched a city based League of Legends league called City Rec. Essentially in the cities pictured above, local players can play in the featured match which is broadcasted on the screen.

For more insight, I spoke spoke Andy Babb, EVP of Super League Gaming.

TNL ESPORTS GUEST PODCAST 002: ANDY BABB, EVP SUPER LEAGUE GAMING

 

2017: HOLLYWOOD'S TCL THEATER GETS ESPORTS SECTION

Hollywood's TCL Theater (Photo: Amanda C Edwards/ Shutterstock)

Hollywood's TCL Theater (Photo: Amanda C Edwards/ Shutterstock)

The famous TCL Theater in Hollywood - formerly Mann's - are launching an eSports theater and experience within their complex.

The new area will be used for both MX4D Motion EFX and the "first immersive spectator theater hosting competitive eSports tournaments" - whatever that means.

 

ESL BRINGS ESPORTS TO 1,500 GLOBAL THEATERS

ESL One's 

ESL One's 

ESL is expanding their partnership with BY Experience to bring 5 live eSports events to 1,500+ theaters globally.  The "eSports in Cinema" series is scheduled to launch in July which will include action from ESL One Cologne and 4 TBD events.

In addition, ESL will debut a new eSports documentary from those that worked on The Smartest Men in the Room, Superheroes and Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants.

 

WHY DOES THE COMBINATION OF MOVIE THEATERS AND ESPORTS WORK SO WELL?

 

/01 REAL ESTATE ROI

"Historically 70-75% of a theater's business is done Friday through Sunday, so they are relatively inefficient operations Monday through Thursday," says Eric Handler, senior equity analyst for MKM Partners.

In addition, using the Coke minimum ticket model, theaters can determine what content will be most lucrative.

 

/02 MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

Can't make it to NYC, LA, Vegas or DC to watch your favorite eSports event, now the content is increases by an order of magnitude. It also provides...

 

/03 COMMUNITY BASED EXPERIENCE

Instead of watching an eSports event by yourself at home, you can join other fans and watch together.

Just like traditional sports, I believe this makes it even more attractive to the eSports fan.

 

/04 MONETIZATION

Look at the new revenue streams now available to theaters:

  • Tournament Fees
  • Sponsorships and Advertising revenue
  • Food and Beverage

Just think of this scenario: "Enjoy your time Bobby, Mom and Dad are going to be at the bar right outside"

 

Brilliant.