Exclusive: Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlies Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky

EXCLUSIVE: UNDERWORLD ESPORTS RAISES $10M FROM GRIZZLIES KAPLAN, SURVIVOR'S DR. ZAHALSKY

Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlie's Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)

Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlie's Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL Take: Money continues to pour into eSports teams. 

The Next Level has learned that Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Jed Kaplan and current "Survivor" season member Dr. Mike Zahalsky have invested in Portland based Underworld eSports.  Kaplan is also an owner of Swansea City Football Club of the English Premier League.

While the overall investment total was not revealed, the rumored figure is as high as $10M - which is an extraordinary amount for a team which currently competes in four titles ranging from Call of Duty to Vainglory.

Two other interesting aspects of this investment.

First, we’re beginning to see the second wave of professional sports owners who are seeing big investment opportunities in eSports.  Stephen Kaplan, co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies as well, previously invested in team Immortals back in November of 2015 via Oaktree Capital.

TNL Infographic 027: NBA eSport Investment (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 027: NBA eSport Investment (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

Second, as Pro Sports team owners continue their involvement within eSports, what's the new investment trend?

Athletes and celebrities.

From NRG's recent investment from both Marshawn Lynch and Jennifer Lopez, Underworld eSports investment also includes Dr. Mike Zahalsky from the current season of "Survivor".

The deal was brokered by Bill Yates of the Sports Advisory Group who has also been linked to other eSports team investments.

TNL eSports Podcast 028: Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Director eSports Business

TNL ESPORTS PODCAST 028: MONUMENTAL SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT - GRANT PARANJAPE, DIRECTOR ESPORTS BUSINESS

TNL eSports Podcast 028: Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Director eSports Business (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL eSports Podcast 028: Monumental Sports and Entertainment, Director eSports Business (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL Take: In this edition of The Next Level eSports Podcast 028, we speak with Grant Paranjape, Director eSports Business for Monumental Sports and Entertainment.

We chat about:

-His history in Gaming and eSports
-NBA 2K League
-Washington Wizards Involvement
-Real and eSports Games
-MSE OTT Platform
-Scouting and Teams
-Athlete Brand Building

Enjoy the conversation!

 THE NEXT LEVEL ESPORTS PODCAST

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eSports Week In Review | eSports Youngest Sports TV Viewer, PWC's Real Research, Pro Hockey Invests

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | ESPORTS IS YOUNGEST SPORTS TV VIEWER, PWC'S REAL RESEARCH, PRO HOCKEY INVESTS

Twitch eSports Arena Presented By T-Mobile (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch eSports Arena Presented By T-Mobile (Photo: Twitch)

TNL Take: This biggest gaming conference in the US - E3 - revealed a ton of eSports related news and brand deals which will be looked at deeper.

This week, the next The Next Level was revealed, PWC released a realistic eSports revenue report, Pro Hockey investment increases, and as the sports tv viewer ages, eSports remains the youngest.

 

MONDAY 06/12

The Next The Next Level

The Next Level (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

The Next Level (Graphic: Jordan Fragen)

PWC's 2017 Global Entertainment and Media Outlook (Photo: PWC)

PWC's 2017 Global Entertainment and Media Outlook (Photo: PWC)

EA Sports NHL 94 aka The Best Hockey Game Ever Made™ (Photo: Racketboy)

EA Sports NHL 94 aka The Best Hockey Game Ever Made™ (Photo: Racketboy)

TNL Infographic 046: Sports vs. eSports Viewership Ages (Source: Magna Global/Sports Business Journal/Nielsen Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 046: Sports vs. eSports Viewership Ages (Source: Magna Global/Sports Business Journal/Nielsen Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

 

Have a great weekend!

NBA + China + eSports = Super Smart

NBA + CHINA + ESPORTS = SUPER SMART

NBA2K Online In China (Photo: 2K/Tencent)

NBA2K Online In China (Photo: 2K/Tencent)

TNL Infographic 035: NBA2K ELEAGUE's 17 Teams (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 035: NBA2K ELEAGUE's 17 Teams (Infographic: The Next Level)

Further, of the 17 teams that will take part, 11 have already made or been involved in eSports team ownership, sponsorship or investment.

Speaking to CNBC from the CES Asia conference, NBA China CEO David Shoemaker said the following about the country's eSports potential:

"When you factor in not just filling arenas, but the content offering and what that can do with the millions of people watching it online, we think the sky's really the limit"

David, I totally agree.

I'm not a fan of copy/pasting a Press Release, #HotTakes or simply linking to an article but let's dig in a little deeper prior to The Next Level China eSports report in progress.

 

/01 1.4 BILLION

Every time I think I have some handle on China's scale, they get even bigger. By 2018, China's population will be 1.4 billion. Let's put that in perspective:

  • China has the 2nd highest youth population outside of India
  • China Mobile has more subscribers than the entire population of the US
  • China will have 100+ cities with a 1M population by 2020

Oh you're "1 in a million" in China? Great, there are 1,400 people just like you.

 

/02 NBA IN CHINA

China is the NBA's 2nd biggest market after the US and basketball is ingrained within Chinese youth culture. Kobe needs a Presidential security detail every time he does a Nike promotional tour.

How and why is the NBA so big in China?

  • 1987: David Stern sells NBA broadcast rights to China's CCTV
  • 2002: Regular season games were drawing 10M viewers....during China's AM rush hour (NY Times)
  • 2008: NBA China established at $2.3B valuation and annual revenue of $150M+
  • 2012: 300M estimated basketball players
  • 2017: 450M estimated fan base

I'd add in other huge development: the 2002 #1 NBA Draft pick Yao Ming from the Shanghai Sharks.

 

/03 NBA2K IS ALREADY THERE

Based on some of the articles and comments after yesterday's announcement, you would think this is China's first move into NBA Gaming or eSports.

It's been there since 2012.

NBA 2K Online made by 2K in conjunction with Tencent Games launched 5 years ago after starting discussions in 2009.

Tencent's eSports Domination (Graphic: The Next Level)

Tencent's eSports Domination (Graphic: The Next Level)

You already know how massive Tencent is - and getting bigger - and with their upcoming eSports channel announcement they're only going to continue to grow.

Well how is NBA2K Online performing in China?

Well.

According to industry analyst @ZhugeEx (FYI: If you're not following him you should. One of the few people I trust with real Gaming data) :

  • 35M Registered Players
  • Top 30 PC Game
  • Double Digit Revenue Growth Q1 2016 vs Q1 2017

 

This is a fantastic strategic move by the NBA and my 1 cent recommendations:

K.I.S.S. and launch US first with NBA teams only and keep the China league separate.