E-sports plans to make a home in downtown – or several.
The move comes courtesy of L.A. Live’s lineup of venues, which will provide the potential for a tiered approach to tournaments and other events.
The connection to L.A. Live comes with Anschutz Entertainment Group, which last week took a stake in e-sports franchise Immortals, which will join the Lakers, Kings, Clippers and Sparks as a tenants of the downtown sports and entertainment district.
The Immortals franchise, whose players train out of a Brentwood home, fields teams in several e-sports leagues.
AEG joins an ownership group led by Chairman Clinton Foy, who also is managing director of Venice-based Crosscut Ventures; Noah Whinston, Immortals chief executive; Oaktree Capital Management co-founder Steve Kaplan, who’s also a co-owner of pro basketball’s Memphis Grizzlies; Peter Levin, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. president of interactive ventures and games; former Honest Co. Chief Executive Brian Lee; and Michael Milken (see related item in Page 3 column) and his son Gregory Milken, the co-founder of March Capital Partners in Santa Monica; among others.
Financial terms of AEG’s investment were not disclosed.
“Expanding our interests in e-sports is a natural progression as we continue to invest in growth initiatives that further our leadership in sports and live entertainment,” said Dan Beckerman, chief executive of AEG, in a statement.
Staples Center already has hosted some e-sports events, including last year’s League of Legends World Championship. The deal could include events at 20,000-seat Staples and other AEG-owned venues such as the 7,100-seat Microsoft Theater and 2,300-seat the Novo by Microsoft.
AEG entered a long-term global partnership last year with ESL of Cologne, Germany, a company that operates e-sports competitions. That deal allows ESL to utilize AEG’s global network of more than 120 clubs, theaters, arenas and stadiums for events, tournaments and world championships.
“With an amazing ownership group that includes AEG, (Lions Gate), Michael Milken and Steve Kaplan, dynamic and forward-looking franchise management, a new state-of-the-art L.A. Live home and access to AEG’s incredible talent pool, Immortals is uniquely positioned to bring e-sports to a truly global audience,” said Lions Gate exec and team co-owner Levin.
Immortals was founded in 2015. It is under construction on a permanent team facility in Culver City that will open later this year. The franchise fields professional squads that play “League of Legends,” “CS:GO,” “Overwatch,” “Super Smash Bros.” and “Vainglory.” One of the team’s top players is South Korea-born Ho-jong “Flame” Lee.
Lee and other top professional e-sports players in North America could see their paychecks rise to six figures a year after an influx of venture capital and corporate sponsorship dollars into the industry over the last couple of years.
Several reports on the nascent e-sports industry indicate it’s a fast-growing market that could cross the $1 billion mark in revenue within the next few years. Revenue comes from three main sources: sponsorships, ticket sales and media rights to broadcast games.
The growth prospects were boosted last week with an announcement by Chinese firm Tencent that it plans to invest $15 billion in e-sports worldwide over the next five years, according to media reports in China.
Tencent owns West L.A.’s Riot Games, publisher of “League of Legends.” It also has a minority stake in Santa Monica-based game developer Activision Blizzard Inc.
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