Cox Enterprises has entered the eSports arena by funding an Atlanta team in the Overwatch League, the first and largest global professional eSports league. Overwatch’s inaugural season recently wrapped up its Grand Finals with 12 teams from across the U.S., Europe, and Asia in the competition.
ESPN reports that Overwatch parent company Blizzard Entertainment is pricing these second-season expansion slots at $30 to $60 million, depending on number of bidders and population of the city. Slots for the inaugural season went for $20 million each.
Existing teams include those owned by Comcast Spectacor (Comcast NBCUniversal’s portfolio of live sports and entertainment assets), New England Patriots’ owner The Kraft Group, New York Mets’ sister company Sterling.VC, and the Kroenke family, which owns the Los Angeles Rams and Denver Nuggets.
“The eSports phenomenon is only getting bigger and the Overwatch League is at the center of the excitement,” said Cox CFO Dallas Clement. “Atlanta has some of the most passionate fans in the world — and now, we get to bring this energy to the Overwatch League. We are thrilled to help lead the evolution of eSports by building a team in our hometown.”
Atlanta has increasingly been making a name for itself in the competitive gaming and eSports industries as home to major players such as Turner, which launched its ELEAGUE in 2016, and Hi-Rez Studios/Skillshot Media, maker of the SMITE and Paladins games. Local schools like SCAD and Georgia State are funneling students through industry-leading programs in game design, development, marketing, broadcasting and more, creating a talent pipeline to feed demand.
To facilitate the Atlanta team, Cox has partnered with family-owned firm Province, Inc. to form a new entity, Atlanta Esports Ventures. Province Principal Paul Hamilton will serve as the organization’s president and CEO.
Hamilton says he hopes the eSports team will generate city-wide support and excitement similarly to the Atlanta United, which this season broke the Major League Soccer single-game attendance record.
“Just watching that makes me feel a little overwhelmed — its amazing to see what the fans have done, what the United has done, and we’re so excited to do the same,” Hamilton says.
He shares that they have already begun identifying potential players that meet both the values of Cox and Province, and the mold of a “hyper-competitive” winning eSports player. Atlanta eSports Ventures will build out a full team in the city and support it from both the player perspective — health professionals, chefs, and the like — and sales, marketing and support staff.
When the team launches, Hamilton says the city can expect a full marketing push and fan engagement including launch and watch parties, social media outreach, and more.
“We are privately more excited than anyone you can imagine,” says Hamilton. “And it’s not just me; it’s across all of Cox, and we hope to create that same excitement in Atlanta.”
Overwatch simultaneously announced a new expansion team in Guangzhou, China, purchased by entertainment conglomerate and owner of the Chinese Basketball Association Nenking Group.