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Business of Esports Minute 023: ESPN Esports Failure, EnvyUS Gaming Content Membership, Immortals $26M Raise

A week of news covering the intersection of business and gaming / esports, all in about one minute – everything you need to know from the “profit of esports” himself.

023 – November 16, 2020

From the keyboard to the boardroom, this is the Business of Esports Minute! Every single week, I, Paul Dawalibi, the prophet of esports, will be bringing you my hottest takes from the week, basically everything you need to know about the business of esports all in about one minute. Let’s go.

This week, ESPN confirmed the shutdown of their esports operation. All associated employees were laid off and the division will stop publishing any news or articles. The social media accounts will also all go dark. I saw this coming for a number of reasons. First, ESPN’s core audience is made up of traditional sports fans which skews older than the esports audience. Second, the content itself lacked any character or unique viewpoint. Thus, they were producing lackluster content for an audience that didn’t care about esports. It’s safe to assume that executives at ESPN also don’t fully understand the esports opportunity and this was just the most obvious target for cost-cutting. Basic esports news or journalism is fundamentally a commodity at this point, which is why The Business of Esports (unlike ESPN and others) focuses on bringing you unique analysis from true successful business experts. 

Envy Gaming, the parent company of Overwatch League franchise Dallas Fuel and Call of Duty League franchise Dallas Empire, launched a membership program this week called EnvyUS. Members pay $29.95 per year for access to exclusive content such as discounts, giveaways, access to a members-only Discord server and “direct Team Envy access”. As more and more esports teams pivot to being content creators and lifestyle brands, this new form of monetization is interesting and innovative and I applaud team Envy for that. I see 2 potential issues though. There are dozens of other teams putting out free content that is all completely undifferentiated for the most part and therefore it’s unclear if anyone will be willing to pay for subscription fees for something they can likely get for free elsewhere.  Also, this pivot to subscription fees could be yet another indicator of esports teams’ continued struggle to generate revenue. 

Finally, Immortals Gaming Club raised another $26M in a recent financing. In addition, they’ve sold off their Call of Duty League franchise and have put their Overwatch League franchise up for sale. It’s a clear blow to Activision Blizzard and further proof that their franchised leagues are failing. It’s unclear what Immortals will do with this new investment (and I’m guessing they don’t even know), but it’s a sign that the esports space continues to be very hot. 

For far more detailed insight and discussion into the business of esports, as well as the most exceptional line-up of guests, please tune in every week to the Business of Esports podcast and every Wednesday evening into the Business of Esports after-show livestream. Also make sure to follow us on Twitter @bizesports and on YouTube at The Business of Esports. 

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