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02/20/20: The US Air Force boarded a new deal with ESL and Anykey

Thursday February 20, 2020
Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief.
ESL recruited the United States Air Force as its newest partner, with the military branch serving as Official Partner for Intel Extreme Masters North America 2020 and ESL Pro League Season 11, as well as an Official Partner and supporter of AnyKey, marking the first-ever U.S. Armed Forces partnership for ESL tournaments and leagues. As an Official Partner of IEM North America in 2020, the U.S. Air Force will activate onsite and dedicated content will be integrated into tournament broadcasts and be integrated into broadcasts throughout ESL Pro League Season 11, beginning mid-March. The U.S. Air Force will sponsor the ‘Air Force Tactical Timeout’ whenever a team calls a timeout during both Pro League Season 11 and IEM North America matches.

The U.S. Air Force will also serve as an official brand partner and supporter of AnyKey, an advocacy group founded by ESL and Intel that supports diversity, inclusion, and equality in competitive gaming. As part of the new “Changemaker Program” launching later this year, the U.S. Air Force and AnyKey will recognize a member of the gaming community that has done outstanding work in diversity and inclusion and award them with a grant to fund their efforts. To further raise awareness, AnyKey and the U.S. Air Force will create a profile piece on the selected individual that will live on the AnyKey website and social channels and syndicated across ESL channels.

The CS:GO ecosystem continued to evolve, this time with the announcement that ESL and DreamHack are restructuring the Pro League with changes that are set to include long-term league slots and revenue and profit sharing for top global teams.
With the changes coming through what is dubbed the Louvre Agreement, ESL, DreamHack and key CS:GO teams will see teams receive a share of revenues and profits from ESL’s Pro Tour competitions in addition becoming majority stakeholders in the league with a long-term slot for participation. The deal was signed by Astralis, Complexity, Evil Geniuses, ENCE, FaZe Clan, Fnatic, G2 Esports, Mousesports, Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team Liquid, Team Vitality, 100 Thieves and ESL following a meeting in Paris in January 2020.

Speaking of which, ESL announced that the Season 11 of ESL Pro League in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will celebrate the first season finals of its new format in Denver with the top six out of 24 teams battling it out for $750,000 prize pool shares at the 1st Bank Center in Denver from April 10-12.

Halo will be powered by a new engine, with 343 Industries announcing that the Halo Championship Series will now feature Esports Engine as its new Global Management Partner. The news comes following news last November that the title’s esports endeavors would get an overhaul in a move o broaden the ecosystem. “We are extremely excited to work with 343 Industries as their Global Management Partner and leverage our rich Halo history and 20 years of esports operations experience to help build the best program for players, fans, teams, and tournament operators around the world,” said Adam Apicella, CEO of Esports Engine. “From our experience running Halo for so many years and also being a third party operator trying to make ends meet – now being able to help design a program that’s something the fans want, something the players want, that’s great for the teams, great for the other operators – it’s super exciting to be involved in such a monumental project.”

Ubisoft is tweaking its Rainbow Six Siege esports format to now include a regionalized series that will kick in in mid-June with programs representing Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America. The new plans call for each year to comprise one season that will now be divided into quarters. The first three quarters will serve as stages that will each feature its own Major where the top four teams from each region will compete. The final stage will see each region run its own finals and relegations, with the top teams moving on to the Six Invitational.

World of Warcraft Esports laid out its 2020 plans, announcing changes to both Arena World Championship (AWC) and Mythic Dungeon International (MDI), including a move to YouTube as part of the company’s overarching deal with the platform. For the AWC, teams with the most points after all four North American and European cups will be invited to compete in the AWC Battle for Azeroth Finals. There, the eight best teams in the world will compete for a share of the $500,000 prize pool—the largest AWC Prize Pool to date. The first AWC Tournament Series in Shadowlands will host two competitive seasons with online cups and two in-person tournaments, including a mid-series LAN and a finals event which would occur in the Summer, similar to the Battle for Azeroth Finals this year. Mythic Dungeon International returns for its second year, with divisions that now feature The European and Asian division that includes players from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Korea, China, and Taiwan and The Americas division that includes players from the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. The finals will have teams competing for their share of a massive $300,000 prize pool.

ELEAGUE is going outside the US for the first time, partnering with Electronic Arts for an EA SPORTS FIFA 20 competition in Paris this weekend, where they will play for $200,000 in prize money as well as Global Series Rankings points. Live EA SPORTS FIFA 20 matches run Friday-Sunday, beginning daily at 7a across Twitch, YouTube, B/R Live and The competition will feature 64 of the world’s top professional players – 32 each on the PlayStation® 4 and Xbox One consoles. ELEAGUE’s live tournament coverage will feature an expert lineup of commentators led by host Kevin Egan, along with studio analysts Mike LaBelle and Chu Morah, game analyst Dan Gaskin and reporter Jillian Sakovits, who all return from ELEAGUE’s January event. Play-by-play announcers Mark Hatcher and Brandon Smith, along with game analyst Richard Buckley, will make their ELEAGUE debuts in Paris. TBS carries top moments starting May 1 at midnight.

The NBA 2K League is set to serve up its 2020 NBA 2K League Draft, which will be held Saturday at 6p at Terminal 5 in New York City and livestreamed on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels. All 23 NBA 2K League teams, including expansion teams Hornets Venom GT and the Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai, will complete their six-person roster at the four-round draft, which will feature four women, 23 international players, and a set of twins within the pool of players. Scott Cole and Jeff Eisenband host, with Autumn Jonson on board as reporter.

Battlefy is reportedly getting in the ring with Nintendo of America to host Super Smash Bros. Ultimate amateur competitions beginning with the Super Smash Bros. North America Ultimate Online Open Spring 2020 competition next week, hosting competitors in the United States, Canada, and Mexico starting on Feb. 29.

The Overwatch League announced that the now-cancelled Chinese homestands in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou in China, which were shut down due to the coronavirus, will now be played in Seoul, South Korea. The matches will be played over multiple days in Weeks 6 and 7 at a studio, while a few of the makeup matches might also be added to the Seoul Dynasty homestand in Week 5. The makeup matches will not affect the other scheduled homestands in Washington (Week 5), Florida (Week 6), and Atlanta (Week 7).

Speaking of the virus, while China’s League of Legends Pro League officially remains on hiatus due to the coronavirus outbreak, competition will resume as online scrims that will be broadcast between LPL teams starting on Feb. 26, posting “Our primary concern is still keeping everyone safe but we are expecting some great entertaining matches!”

DreamHack is continuing its partnership with Nerd Street Gamers to provide DreamHack Anaheim competitors and attendees with state-of-the-art gaming PCs during the festival. Nerd Street Gamers will deliver 275 Localhost PC setups to this inaugural DreamHack festival in Anaheim.

The Canadian Premier League and Electronic Arts are forming the first-ever eCanadian Premier League tournament that will see all eight CPL clubs are represented in the tournament, giving players the chance to live their dream of winning a title for their favourite club. The eCPL Final will be played in Toronto on May 9 and broadcast live on OneSoccer and Twitch. The tournament kicks off on Feb. 29 and will be available on PlayStation 4. Players will compete across eight online club qualification weekends and eight live city qualifiers. The 16 Esports players from across the nation that secure a qualification birth will travel to Toronto to compete in the eCPL Final presented by OneSoccer.

ESL Asia is opening the doors to the ESL SEA Championship, a regional Dota 2 tournament taking place in Southeast Asia. Open qualifiers for the ESL SEA Championship begin later this month while the finals will take place to April 4-5.


In addition to categories that celebrate individual Top Women in Media, Cynopsis is recognizing distinguished companies who champion women in media. These are the companies who strive for equal opportunity, inclusion, pay parity and women in leadership position.

(sponsored by Turnkey Search)

The GIRLGAMER Esports Festival unveiled non-endemic sponsors for its World Finals in Dubai, organized by Evoloop and presented by Grow uP esports: Johnson & Johnson’s Carefree brand; L’Occitane beauty & personal care; as well as Benefit Cosmetics. They join Logitech G in supporting the event, and each will host an activation onsite to connect with fans in attendance.

The Washington Justice named PenFed Credit Union, the nation’s second largest federal credit union, as a Founding Partner of its 2020 season and the Presenting Partner of their Inaugural Homestand Weekend on Feb. 22 and 23. As part of the activation, PenFed credit and debit cardholders and PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature applicants will receive a special PenFed VIP experience, including VIP entrance and meet and greet lines, access to the PenFed VIP lounge, special promotional merchandise and post season player meetups.


Juked announced that DreamHack will partner with the platform to create a streaming portal for DreamHack Anaheim this weekend. Coming from the Anaheim Convention Center, the platform will feature every live stream, event schedule, brackets/standings, VODs, and more, in one place.

DreamHack also announced categories and talent for The Dreamies Award show, taking place this weekend at Dreamhack Anaheim on Feb. 23. The ceremony will be hosted by Naomi Kyle and CaptainSparklez with awards that include “Scared Witless,” “Rage Quit,” “Worth the Wait,” and “Sleeper Hit.”

Forbes reports that Ronda Rousey will join Facebook Gaming in an exclusive deal to stream games beginning this month. Rousey’s first stream will begin at 6p on Feb. 18 where she will play Pokémon Sword and Shield, with all proceeds from the stream going to relief efforts for the Australian bushfires.

League of Legends staple Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok signed on as a part-owner of T1 Entertainment & Sports as part of his new three-year deal to continue playing with the team but will take on a leadership role when he retires from playing. “I am excited to continue playing for T1 and am thankful for all the fans around the world who have supported me all these years,” he said in a release. “I am honored to become a part owner of T1 and look forward to working with the leadership team beyond my playing career. I love this team and am proud to help mold the future of this organization.”


Just a week after announcing that it would be showcasing at PAX East, Sony has now reportedly pulled out and will sit out the show, citing concerns about the coronavirus. “We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily,” said Sony in a post. “We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

Raymond McCrea Jones/Turner Sports.

ELEAGUE is putting all its backing behind Super Punch, the new series from the Turner Sports property and Twitch, designed to “bring to life the week’s biggest moments in and around gaming and esports – and the creators and communities that drive them – sourced by the community of streamers and fans on Twitch.” Hosted by Twitch streamers and gaming personalities Ify Nwadiwe, Kelly Nugent, J.D. Witherspoon and Alex Corea, the series has been running on Twitch on weeknights since Feb. 3. TBS, meanwhile, gets in on carriage starting tomorrow night and running every Friday, offering a showcase of the series at midnight on the linear channel, with Twitch serving up a complimentary broadcast at 11p and 1a. ELEAGUE Super Punch Powered by Twitch originates from Twitch’s studio in LA from Monday-Thursday, while Friday episodes are televised from ELEAGUE’s headquarters at WarnerMedia Studios in Atlanta.

Cynopsis Esports caught up with Craig Barry, Chief Content Officer at Turner Sports, to discuss the new content initiative from the company.

Barry on evolving ELEAGUE: Looking at the past few years, we started as a traditional, authentic esports content group who took a lot of pride in being authentic with a quality product. Over time, as we got into ELEAGUE 2.0 and 2.5, we started to realize that the space was still really a publisher’s game, and we were trying to figure out what we were really good at and what could differentiate us in the marketplace. One of those things was really leaning in to our tentpoles and creating content around All-Star Weekend and March Madness and UEFA, king of using those traditional platforms and that tradition marketing and fanbase to connect games and traditional sports, while growing products that could grow past the traditional esports product. As we moved in that direction, we started wrapping ourselves more and more around the culture of gaming, as opposed to esports proper. Then through subsequent conversations with Twitch and the communities, we started to ideate around this opportunity.

On esports: I feel esports is a great opportunity for the publishers and for the community that those publishers support, be it Fortnite or Overwatch or Call of Duty or whatnot. We live in a really fragmented world, and esports may even be more fragmented that other media competitors, because if I’m not a MOBA fan, than I’m not interested in that content, just like if you are a big football fan, than you wouldn’t be interested in the NBA. If you like to play open world, if you like to play mobile, or battle royale or want to play co-op, suddenly you realize how niche esports really is. That’s when I started to get a little more bearish on esports proper and started to get more engaged around the culture of gaming with the understanding that these guys who stream were gamers, and then they were streamers and then they became content creators. A lot of those personalities transcended the games and platforms that they play them on. So, for me, there is a huge opportunity within the culture of gaming instead of being inside this micro-esports phase.
Esports is still important, mind you, and a vital part of the ecosystem, but it is a spoke. It is not the wheel. The wheel is everything. It is the streamers, the esports, the different games, it is the personalities, and the events, so when you have an opportunity to touch on all of that, than you are able to understand that you can deliver an obligation to the casual fan in the same way that you can deliver to the hardcore fan.

On the new show: Where we started to lean to is figuring out ways to entertain gamers. We have the premiere native digital platform in Twitch, and then we have this untraditional linear platform in TBS, so we need to make sure these two work together and figure out how to create a fun, entertaining portal for the casual gamer. We are a live sport specialist, obviously. What had historically been airing on TBS has been Hard Knocks types of shows, that would focus on the players and teams. We would do the live event on Twitch and then pull the content off and create custom shows for TBS. We wouldn’t put the live sports on TBS but ultimately, it too complicated of a watch for the casual fan so we had to start spoon feeding them content and narrative’s that we thought they would care about. With all that said, we always wanted to get back to the live show and figure out how we can embody this really engaging community that is connected real-time. That’s where the partnership with Twitch came in. We thought they did their side of it really well. They are a distribution company that dabble in content while we are a content company that has some distribution outlets. So we were very complimentary in being able to do something together.

On talent: They had to be authentic to the space. We went through the process of figuring out who would work where in addition to hiring talent on the Twitch platform. We were in lockstep with Twitch, and we wanted the talent to be authentic on the Twitch platform but be able to communicate effectively on the linear platform and be comfortable regardless of how they were being distributed. They needed to be creative and be able to contribute, since we are starting this from scratch. Finally, there is nothing more important than chemistry.


Epic Games named Nike’s chief digital officer Adam Sussman as the company’s new president, per GameSpot. Prior to his role at Nike, Sussman served as senior VP of global publishing at Zynga, and served as senior VP of publishing at The Walt Disney Company for DIMG Games.

Super League Gaming appointed John Boyden as senior vice president and general manager of the company’s premium subscription service Super League Prime. Before joining Super League, Boyden was pivotal in the launch and growth of multiple successful consumer digital services and subscription products for globally-recognized brands. In addition to roles at Smartlabs/Insteon and Defy Media, he served as vice president of digital marketing and retention for Guthy-Renker.

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