Owners say esports lessons transfer to traditional sports

December 9, 2019

Traditional sports team owners say they are seeing crossover benefits from investing in esports, applying lessons they learn from one realm to the other.

Team owners from every major sport in the U.S. have entered competitive gaming in recent years, largely with franchised leagues owned by Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI) and Riot Games. Families from traditional sports that are involved in esports ownership range from the likes of the Wilpons (New York Mets) to the Aquilinis (Vancouver Canucks) and the Krafts (New England Patriots).

There have been some suggestions raised over the last year that franchised esports teams in the U.S. are proving harder to make profitable than anticipated. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took that conversation to a more public level last month when he made national headlines by calling esports ownership in the U.S. an “awful business” in an interview with Fox Sports.

But to the contrary of Cuban, companies such as Monumental Sports & Entertainment and Comcast Spectacor say they’re still confident their investments will pay off.

“We’re incredibly happy investors,” said Zach Leonsis, whose family invested in well-noted esports organization Team Liquid. “What people sometimes forget or fail to realize is traditional leagues like the NHL and NBA are close to 100 years old; these are incredibly established brands and organizations — and really we are in the top or bottom of the first inning for esports.”

Leonsis said what made his family and Monumental want to get into esports is the realization that a significant percentage of esports fans weren’t following the traditional sports leagues in which they’re invested. Leonsis said a particular eye-opener for him was when he went to the E3 video game conference a couple years ago, and was told “no” when he asked several people there if they were following the NBA Finals.

In late 2016, Monumental acquired a controlling interest in Team Liquid alongside Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber. Team Liquid is one of the longest running and most successful teams in esports history, having been around since the turn of the millennium and now having won the North American League Championship Series four years in a row.

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