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Activision Wants To Become "ESPN Of Esports" With Major League Gaming Acquisition

ESports advertisers seen as way to subsidize the increasing cost of game development.

Activision Wants To Become "ESPN Of Esports" With Major League Gaming Acquisition
[Photo: Flickr user Tarcil Tarcil]

Activision Blizzard, makers of the popular Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo gaming franchises, has announced that it has acquired eSports organizer Major League Gaming (MLG) in hopes to become the ESPN of the growing world of eSports.

The eSporting world has seen a rapid rise in the last few years, taking in $612 million in revenue in 2015 alone as more and more people become spectators of—and take part in—competitive gaming. Streaming audience numbers have been estimated to have hit 100 million in 2015, making it more popular than many professional sports leagues. That audience is expected to grow to 300 million worldwide by 2017, according to Activision.

"Our acquisition of Major League Gaming’s business furthers our plans to create the ESPN of eSports," Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard said in a statement. "MLG’s ability to create premium content and its proven broadcast technology platform—including its live streaming capabilities—strengthens our strategic position in competitive gaming."

Though Activision did not confirm the numbers, the gaming giant reportedly snapped up all of MLG’s properties, including MLG.tv, MLG Pro Circuit, and the GameBattles platforms, for $46 million. Activision confirmed it will keep all of MGL’s properties alive as it moves them in-house, allaying fears that it would be shuttering the businesses.

"The acquisition of MLG’s business is an important step towards Activision Blizzard Media Networks’s broader mission to bring esports into the mainstream by creating and broadcasting premium eSports content, organizing global league play and expanding distribution with key gaming partners," Mike Sepso, MGL cofounder and now senior vice president of Activision Blizzard Media Networks, said in a statement.

Though total eSports revenues combined take in well under a billion dollars globally today, Activision’s acquisition of MLG is at the relatively small price of $46 million is seen as a smart move on the company’s part, due to eSports' increasing ability to attract big-brand advertisers–-an important extra revenue stream as production costs for next generation console games like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One continue to climb.

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