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03/11/21: Gray Television’s touch of Envy; ESL picks up PUBG play; Taking aim at the Battle Royale genre

Medias First Morning Read

Thursday March 11, 2021

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief.
Gray Television is getting in the game, leading a $40 million investment round for Envy Gaming. As the lead investor in Envy’s Series C round, Gray will invest $28.5 million and name two directors to the Envy Gaming board of directors. Gray is one of the largest owners of television stations in the U.S., reaching approximately 24% of U.S. television households and carrying over 500 separate programming streams, including roughly 160 affiliates of the Big Four broadcast networks.

“Esports and gaming is the fastest-growing area across all of media and entertainment,” said Adam Rymer, CEO of Envy Gaming. “Building global communities through content and engagement, similar to what the world has seen in the music, film and TV industries, is an endeavor we’re incredibly excited to work on with Gray as our partner.”

ESL is partnering with KRAFTON to launch a new series of tournaments dedicated to competitive PUBG. The company announced plans to host ESL PUBG Masters & ESL PUBG Open tournaments this year with a quartet of ESL PUBG Masters tournaments split between two regions; Americas, and Europe, in addition to three ESL PUBG Open tournaments to Europe. Phase one in the Americas begins April 7-8.

The inaugural North American VALORANT Masters tournament is on deck, with Riot unveiling its roster of talent for play, which begins today and runs through March 21. The caster lineup includes Daniel “ddk” Kapadia and Sean Gares, along with Rivington “RivingtonThe3rd” Bisland III and Doug “EsportsDoug” Cortez. Analysts include Mark “boq” Wilson and Alex “Vansilli” Nguyen, who join Christine “potter” Chi on the desk, along with Loviel “Velly” Cardwell and Sue “Smix” Lee.

Speaking of VALORANT, Nerd Street Gamers is being tapped as the official tournament operator and producer for two upcoming VALORANT initiatives. Nerd Street Gamers will operate and produce all three North American stages of Riot Games’ 2021 VALORANT Champions Tour along with the first tournament in Riot Games’ VALORANT Game Changers Series.

On the collegiate front, the National Association of Collegiate Esports is partnering with the Southwestern Athletic Conference to assist with the launch of their inner conference competitive esports league. The league schedule will consist of a four-week regular season format with two weeks of post season play to determine team champions in each game title. This will include broadcasting competitions to promote esports within the conference to give SWAC schools the opportunity to develop their programs with NACE support.

Also, Mainline teamed up with Steel Planet Esports, an affiliated venture of college multi-media rights holder Steel Curtain U, to assist in the management of esports rights for a number of Division II, Division III, NAIA and community college conferences and universities under the newly created entity, Launch Esports. One of the first conferences to utilize Launch Esports is Conference Carolinas with additional conferences to be announced in the coming weeks.

The 2021 eMLS Cup presented by Coca-Cola is set for March 20 and 21, with the top 11 players from the overall standings for 2021 already qualified for the tournament, with the top four going straight to the quarterfinals. Remaining players will compete for the final spot in the playoffs in their own bracket tournament, the Last Chance Qualifier on March 16-17. The opening rounds of eMLS Cup take place on March 20 and begin at 3 pm ET. The quarterfinals, semifinals, and final will take place the following day, March 21 with fans able to watch via Titch, Titter, YouTube and Facebook as well as and the MLS App.

Get your tickets here! The EBS team is producing the Esports Business Summit University on March 23-24: a 2-day virtual conference focused on the business of collegiate esports. We’ll go inside topics such as sponsorships, scholarships, recruitment, funding, and so much more. Hear from the Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, the West Coast Conference, CSL Esports, EGF, Learfield IMG, Skillshot Media, WWSEF/NASEF, Mountain West Conference, BoomTV/AVGL, NIRSA, NACE, FACEIT, Nerd Street Gamers, Twitch and more! It’s going to be an incredible learning opportunity and we hope you’ll join us. Register now!

For the past three years, the Battle Royale Genre has captivated live streaming audiences on Twitch, YouTube Gaming and Facebook. Fortnite and PUBG have managed to sustain respectable audiences and player bases for multiple years. Activision / Blizzard and Electronic Arts have followed the trend, and sustain sizable audiences around their game titles Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends. This week, our insights examine a cut of streaming activity in February 2021:
· Over 1/2 of Battle Royale live streams are watched on Twitch: Last month, Twitch viewers watched over 275 million hours of battle royale game play. The remaining 264M hours of content are split fairly evenly between Facebook and YouTube Gaming.
· Mobile Gaming Audiences are concentrated heavily around Facebook and YouTube Gaming: Only 6% of the watch hours of the top two mobile battle royale games (Garena Free Fire and PUBG Mobile) are watched on Twitch. YouTube (36%) and Facebook Gaming (58%) account for a combined 204M live stream hours watched.

For more data on how to reach gaming fans through esports and influencer marketing, visit us online at:

Gillette is ordering another round of the Gillette Gaming Alliance with the 2021 version of the event set to feature 11 streamers including theGrefg, Dr Lupo and Lando Norris who will create content for their specific region and serve as an official representative for the brand. Other brand representatives will include 2DeeJay Knight, Alanzoka, CiccioGamer89, Papaplatte, Buster, Elded and one other name TBD in Japan.

Miller Lite launched of the Miller Lite Level Up Fund, a $100,000 grant program that aims to provide financial support to uncelebrated communities in the gaming world. The reveal coincided with International Women’s Day on Monday, with the Fund designed to raise awareness for the inspiring female streamers that “deserve greater recognition and access to resources, compared to what their male counterparts receive.” “Miller Lite has a strong connection to the gaming community and has partnered with uncelebrated communities in the past,” said Lauren Cassel, associate marketing manager for Miller Lite. “Launching the Miller Lite Level Up Fund on International Women’s Day and spotlighting the incredible women in gaming is just the beginning. Throughout the year, we will also shine light on and support LGBTQ+, Latinx, and Black gamers so they also get the recognition they deserve.”

Hey brands! Request an exclusive invite to the Cynopsis Sports & Esports Newfront where brand execs and their reps will be able to learn about the slate of opportunities from the sports and esports business from established leagues to new ones. This 2-day event is designed with ample networking time so that select attendees can connect to discuss session content, and other recent developments.

ESL Gaming announced 1xBet as the first-ever exclusive global betting partner of the ESL Pro Tour CS:GO and ESL One Summer & Winter Dota 2 running throughout the entirety of 2021 and up to IEM Katowice 2022. The global partnership will see 1xBet and ESL partner to “enhance the overall experience for esports players and fans” with planned innovations that include bringing special custom segments such as data driven player impact cards, match predictions, and custom maps throughout the year in both CS:GO and Dota 2 broadcasts.

FACEIT locked in a deal with HyperX to serve as the first sponsor of its CS:GO, League of Legends, and VALORANT collegiate leagues. The pair will host and produce the HyperX Collegiate All Stars tournament to showcase collegiate talent across all three leagues.

Esports Entertainment entered a sponsorship deal with Kraft Sports and Entertainment, and will now provide online gambling services with a specific focus on esports, and include teams such as the New England Patriots and New England Revolution. Esports Entertainment will be able to act as the official sponsor and provider of the official esports tournaments associated with the league.

Evil Geniuses is tapping Bud Light as its newest partner and as the official beer of the team. The partnership will give fans access to in-game communications of the EG League of Legends squad in “Evil Intercepts” content series while names such as Swim, FearItself, dekillsage, SonicFox, and others take turns broadcasting on “Bud Light Streams” hosted on Bud Light’s Twitch channel. “Evil Geniuses is honored to welcome Bud Light into the EG family,” said Michael Fudzinski, chief revenue officer at Evil Geniuses. “Bud Light is renowned for their support of elite organizations across sports and entertainment, and the pairing with EG and our 21+ year history represents the latest continuation of this legacy that our fans and the community will celebrate.”


FYX Gaming, the esports infrastructure and technology provider specializing in the development of blockchain-based solutions, entered into a partnership with esports betting operator Unikrn that will see the two companies collaborate to deliver next-generation iGaming products and technology, including the inclusion of CryptoFights on Unikrn Virtual

The North America Scholastic Esports Federation revealed the next version of their scrim finding tool, Scrimfinder+, for high school esports Clubs across North America, offering an expanded roster of supported game titles that can be played on a variety of devices and platforms. Features updated in Scrimfinder+ include: an expanded roster of games supported from 3 to 13; suggested competition nights to build community and increase your chances of finding a similar Club; and a NASEF safe “ecosystem.”

Presented by: Cynopsis Sports & Esports Business Summit
Wednesday, April 21 – Thursday, April 22

The event is back by popular demand & expanded to 2 days to feature sports and esports companies! If you’re from a Fortune1000 company or an agency which supports a Fortune1000 brand, join us for a virtual experience on how to activate your brand with the highly-prized fanbase watching and engaging in sports & esports.

The 2021 presentation line-up will be announced soon!

The Washington Justice opened a new team facility in Penn Quarter, Washington, D.C. that will serve as the home to Justice players for their daily practices and official competitions as well as play host for fan events and a full retail shop experience. “When we first launched the Justice, we committed to bringing a best-in-class esports franchise to the DMV region. Following on the incredible success of playing live in front of packed hometown crowds at two Homestands at the iconic Anthem, we are proud to continue finding innovative ways to engage with our fans, even through the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented,” said Mark Ein, owner of the Washington Justice. “With our new facility, we will be able to offer our players an unparalleled competitive environment while offering our fans ways to interact more often, and in ways we never could have before, all while being located in the center of downtown D.C.”

Evil Geniuses, in partnership with Women in Games International, announced the launch of Press Forward: Young Women in Gaming, a summit series focused on inspiring young women to pursue career goals in the esports and gaming industry. Kicking off on April 24th, the first event in the series will blend career-focused sessions from esports professional gamers, game designers, entrepreneurs from Riot Games, Amazon, 343 Industries and more.

The University of Kentucky and Gen.G are launching an esports invitational taking place March 12-14. Competitors will include Auburn University, Mississippi State University, Texas A&M University, University of Alabama, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, University of Mississippi, University of Missouri, and University of Tennessee. The Invitational is the first time that all of the schools will be competing in the same esports tournament. Student casters from UK will cast the entire event featuring the titles Rocket League, League of Legends and VALORANT.


Allied Esports Entertainment received an unsolicited proposal from Bally’s Corporation to acquire all of the outstanding equity interests of the Company for a total consideration of $100 million. The Bally’s proposal would require the Company to terminate its previously announced agreement with Element Partners to sell all of the equity interests of Club Services, including the entities comprising the World Poker Tour.

ReKTGlobal acquired TalentX Entertainment, the social media monetization and talent development company. This acquisition consolidates ReKTGlobal’s previous joint venture with TalentX, TalentX Gaming (TXG), and TalentX Entertainment into ReKTX, ReKTGlobal’s new talent management arm. “Creators have become one of the most influential segments of every major industry,” said Amish Shah, Founder of ReKTGlobal. “We’re incredibly bullish on this idea of the ‘creator economy,’ so with our already close-knit relationship with TalentX, bringing them into the ReKTGlobal family was a great addition to our diversified portfolio of assets.”

Sports business agency SPORTFIVE announced the acquisition of Germany based esports consulting and activation agency build a rocket. The newly acquired company will remain as an independent brand in the market place and obtain the endorsement title “A SPORTFIVE Company”. Alexander Albrecht and Tobias Heim will continue to serve as Managing Directors of build a rocket and will report into Eike Gyllensvärd,

A report from Business Insider’s Insider Intelligence projects that esports viewership is expected to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023. That puts the esports audience on pace to nearly double over a six-year period.

Former execs from the likes of Riot Games, Blizzard, Valve, and Bungie teamed up and raised $37.5 million to launch a new game studio, titled Theorycraft Games. Led by NetEase, Inc., and including investments from NEA, BITKRAFT Ventures, Griffin Gaming Partners, SISU Game Ventures, and a small group of strategic angel investors, the Series A investment will be used to recruit diverse and driven talent to the Theorycraft team to develop a community-driven, PvP game available across multiple platforms. Execs include Joe Tung, CEO and Founder of Theorycraft Games, and the former EVP of League of Legends franchise and EP of Destiny and Halo; Michael Evans, as Chief Technology Officer; Mike Tipul, as Chief Creative Officer; Moby Francke, as Art Director, and Areeb Pirani, as Chief Operating Officer.


FaZe Clan announced that Tammy Brandt is joining the company as its new Chief Legal Officer and Head of Business and Legal Affairs. The news follows the recent addition of Amit Bajaj as CFO and Bill McCullough as the organization’s Executive Vice President of Content. Brandt will be responsible for overseeing all business and legal affairs, M&A and corporate matters, working directly alongside CEO Lee Trink, the Board of Directors and the rest of the Executive Team.

Geoff Sawyer joined global talent and entertainment company UTA as an Agent in the Video Games division. In his newly created role, he will primarily focus on fostering collaborations between UTA’s music clients and the gaming industry. Most recently, Sawyer served as Red Bull’s Director of Global Music Services, where he oversaw the team responsible for music solutions for the entire company.

CAA inked Jessica Blevins, streamer as well as wife and manager of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, for representation, according to Variety. In addition to managing the Team Ninja brand, Blevins has personally accumulated more than 1.1 million followers on Instagram, 611,000 on Twitter and 468,000 on Twitch.


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