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07/30/20: Vindex acquires Belong and will open venues across the country




Medias First Morning Read

Thursday July 30, 2020

Good morning! This is your weekly Esports Brief.
Vindex is looking to bolster the grassroots scene, acquiring the Belong Gaming Arenas brand and all associated IP from Game Digital Limited, which operates over 500 video game retail stores and launched Belong in 2016 to build a network of local gaming communities that play, watch, and compete together in state-of-the-art gaming centers. Vindex will operate Belong Gaming in the US from its New York headquarters, and immediately begin rolling out Belong Arenas across the country. The deal marks the next phase in Vindex’s vision to “support the growth of the global esports industry and to bring amateur esports to hometowns across the country, and around the world.”

Belong Gaming will partner with Esports Engine, a Vindex company, to offer turnkey amateur esports league design, operations, and tournaments through Vindex’s software platform that will power Belong Arenas and connect all of its global members. Vindex plans to invest $300 million over the next five years to open more than 500 Belong locations in the US and an additional 1,000 locations globally through licensed operating partners including GAME. Martyn Gibbs, CEO of GAME Digital and video game industry veteran, will join the Vindex management team as CEO of Belong. Meanwhile, Adam Apicella, Esports Engine co-founder and former league operations and production head at MLG, has been named Chief Experience Officer of Vindex to help oversee the operation of these programs.

“The acquisition of Belong and Martyn’s leadership will allow us to bring the professional esports experience to casual and amateur players in their hometowns across the country and around the world, connecting more players everywhere at a time when communities truly need to be closer together,” said Mike Sepso, CEO of Vindex. “Martyn is a true innovator and one of the most respected executives in the industry, with more than 25 years of experience, most recently as CEO of one of the world’s largest gaming retailers. We are thrilled to have him lead the next phase in our esports infrastructure strategy.”

COMPETITION
The 2020 Clash Royale League World Finals will land in Shanghai, according to Supercell, as eight teams from the CRL East and West compete to become world champion on Dec. 5-6. The 2020 fall season for the CRL East will launch on Aug. 15 with $225,000 on the line.

Engine Media’s esports tournament and broadcast operations group UMG Gaming, expanded its partnership with The Coalition to oversee the Gears Esports Season Finals. This year’s Finals will be streamed on Twitch, running July 31 to Aug. 2 as teams compete for a prize pool of $250,000 and feature teams from both the North American and Latin American regions. “The Spring Quarter Major was our most successful Gears Esports broadcast of the season and the UMG team were instrumental in that. We’re pleased to be able to work with them again on the biggest event in the Gears Esports calendar, the Season Finals,” said Roddy Adams, Director of Partnerships at The Coalition.

The first season of the ‘Ferrari Hublot Esports Series’ is revving up with the new GT Esports championship is being organized by Ferrari in Europe on the “Assetto Corsa” software platform developed by Kunos Simulazioni. The overall champion will be offered the opportunity to join the FDA Hublot Esports team for the following season. The Title Partner of the Series is Hublot, therefore expanding its collaboration with Ferrari in the Esports world, while the Technical Partner is Thrustmaster.

FaZe Clan revealed plans for the FaZe Clan VALORANT Invitational, in partnership with Riot Games and running Aug. 6-9. Sixteen teams of up-and-coming talent will compete in the tournament, “We are so excited to team up with our friends at Riot and our amazing partners at Nissan and Verizon to put on this tournament,” said Jeff Pabst, chief revenue officer of FaZe Clan. “Building our livestream business is a huge priority of ours for 2020 and beyond. We are excited to keep our momentum going in this space with the FaZe Clan VALORANT Invitational. Fans can expect a true FaZe Clan live experience chock-full of entertainment unlike any tournament the gaming community is used to seeing.”

PlayVS is expanding its high school offering to include two different league systems: Varsity and Recreational in addition to adding Overwatch to its title offerings for high school recreational leagues. The partnership agreement with Blizzard Entertainment will allow high schools on the PlayVS recreational platform to register to compete in open, regional leagues for the esports title starting this fall. “Esports is at a pivotal moment as its popularity is growing exponentially, especially as students need creative, productive and competitive outlets during COVID-19,” said Delane Parnell, Founder and CEO at PlayVS. “We’re thrilled to be expanding our high school offerings so that students can participate and compete in esports at multiple levels. Our team is also excited to welcome new and returning players this fall, whether from their schools or at home. Either way, we’re ready for them!”

League of Legends developer Riot Games announced that all European competitions overseen by the company will now fall under the executives overseeing the LEC and European Masters. Changes will impact the Turkish Championship League (TCL), the League of Legends Continental League (LCL), and all events that fall under the Europion Regional League (ERL) infrastructure in addition to all esports initiatives out of the Middle East.

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The ESR 24/7 eSports Network partnered with GTR24h to bring eSim Racing to North America’s eSports market. GTR24h is the oldest eSport Simracing company in the world. The 5-year agreement with GTR24h gives ESR access to broadcast both historical and future eSim Racing content. “With Coca-Cola being the main sponsor for 2020 in Nascar’s iRacing series, we believe that eSim Racing is the next venture in eSports. We are excited to bring the oldest and biggest eSport Simracing competition to North America. Working together with GTR24h at the ground floor will prove to be a bright and fruitful future for Simracing,” says Wendy Wang, ESR 24/7 eSports Network CEO.

STREAM HATCHET TRENDS
Last weekend saw the conclusion of the National Women’s Soccer League Championship Cup, where Houston dashed to victory over Chicago. Earlier this year, the NWSL signed a media rights deal with Twitch to bring one of the first live sports back to fans since the COVID pandemic. The season saw over 335,000 hours of content watched with a peak average minute audience of 19,000 viewers. This week’s insights focus on the most watched teams of the tournament:
· Despite placing 2nd in the Challenge Cup Standings, the Chicago Red Stars were the most watched team during the tournament. They represented over 30% of the total event watch time.
· Sky Blue was the 2nd most watched team of the Challenge Cup due to the popularity of the July 4th match up against Utah. The match up generated an Average Minute Audience of 10k viewers and accounts for 6% of the tournaments watch time.
For more insights on how sports and racing to Twitch, visit us online at: StreamHatchet.com/Insights

ACTIVATION
Riot’s LEC named NEOM as a Main Partner for Summer 2020, sponsoring the Oracle Lens during live broadcasts which helps players predict the next moves a team will make. Activation begins starting with Week 7, as NEOM joins Kia, Alienware, and KitKat, completing the lineup of our main partners for this season. The deal, however, did cause controversy as commentators and staff members in the League of Legends European Championship expressed anger on social media following the announcement over the partnership with the Saudi Arabian state-sponsored city development project, due to the nation’s stance on gay and transgender communities, among other issues.

BLAST also announced a global partnership with NEOM that will push the growth of esports in Saudi Arabia. The deal will seek to engage, educate and benefit the local and global esports ecosystem. As part of the partnership BLAST will develop technology and share expertise to help build the esports academy and develop the sport in the Kingdom.

Verizon joined FaZe Clan as the official 5G and 4G LTE network sponsor of the organization, landing team exclusivity across FaZe Clan talent including pro players and content creators. In addition, Verizon and FaZe will be partnering to create live events and original content showcasing the impact Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network can have on gaming content and the transformational experience it enables for fans, players, and creators. “We are excited to team up with a partner like FaZe Clan to demonstrate the power of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network to their massive gaming community,” said John Nitti, Chief Media Officer, Verizon. “This partnership will enable opportunities to bring gaming content, entertainment and events to the next level for players, fans, and content creators around the globe.”

T1 Entertainment & Sports locked in a partnership with Hana Bank that will see the South Korean bank develop financial products for fans of the team. The deal sees Hana Bank land naming rights to the first floor of T1’s facility in Gangnam, Seoul.

The PUBG Mobile World League named wireless company Qualcomm Technologies as its new presenting sponsor, beginning with the current PMWL Season Zero. “Qualcomm Technologies is a world leading technology innovator, especially with regards to what they’ve achieved in their extensive, first-to-mobile feature set in Snapdragon Elite Gaming, and we’re proud they’ve chosen to be the title sponsor of PUBG MOBILE World League,” said James Yang, Director of PUBG MOBILE Global Esports. “Season Zero is hugely ambitious. Connectivity is key for mobile gaming and having Qualcomm Technologies, a driving force behind the launch of 5G, is essential for us, especially with regards to Season Zero, which is operating on a truly global scale.”

ESL expended CS.MONEY as an Official Partner, with the deal allowing ESL” to explore a new commercial field and offers all fans of CS:GO competitions in turn the best interaction interface possible in combining expertise, especially in the casual areas of CS:GO such as matchmaking.” CS.MONEY will also again be the official presenter of the “CS.MONEY Pre Show”.

T-Mobile signed on as sponsor the New York Excelsior and New York Subliners in the 2021 seasons in an expanded deal, which adds T-Mobile as the “Official Wireless and 5G carrier” of the Excelsiors.

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PLATFORMS
Esportz Network drafted Chris Puckett to host its new show, The Gamer Hour, where he will chat with celebrities about their gaming experiences. “Inspired by the history of late-night shows, we’re excited to be working with Chris Puckett, a highly-respected broadcaster in esports, to take gaming programming to a whole different level,” said Mark Thimmig, Chairman and CEO Esportz Network. “With this show, Chris will join the ranks of other popular late-night TV hosts. We look to go where no gaming show has gone before. With access to 32 media distribution platforms, we expect a wide global distribution.” The Gamer Hour will be filmed in New York City Times Square at the Reuters studio and produced by Reuters Broadcast Solutions.

Comcast’s G4 could be getting a resurrection, as Friday saw the Twitter accounts of G4TV and G4 series Attack of the Show! and X-Play, post a teaser video, captioned with “We never stopped playing” and ending with the number 2021. Multiple reports state that the relaunch of G4 is coming out of Comcast Spectacor,

ESL inked a one-year deal with Huya, a leading game live-streaming platform in China. The deal will see the ESL Pro Tour for CS:GO and Dota 2 licensed exclusively to Huya in 2020, delivering a dedicated stream in standard Mandarin and other Chinese languages and dialects. The deal covers all upcoming Masters properties from the ESL Pro Tour such as the ESL One tournament series, the Intel Extreme Masters and the ESL Pro League circuit. Furthermore, under a separate sub-licensing agreement, Huya acquired the rights to broadcast DreamHack CS:GO and Dota 2 tournaments.

Speaking of which, Dignitas is cracking the Chinese esports market courtesy of a streaming partnership with HUYA, where CS:GO players Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, and Adam “friberg” Friberg will begin streaming on the platform starting Aug. 1, per TEO.

VENN unveiled its distribution line-up ahead of launch as a live 24/7, free premium network across the world with initial platform partners that include Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Gaming and Twitter. VENN will also expand on a variety of additional hardware and connected-TV platforms, including: VIZIO Watch Free; Xumo; and STIRR. “We’re proud to welcome VENN as the first gaming television network to broadcast 24/7 live on Twitter,” said Rishi Chadha Head of Gaming Content Partnerships at Twitter. “Bringing round the clock gaming content to our audience for the first time needed the right partner, and VENN’s celebration of diverse digital pop culture and personalities is a natural fit. Gamers on Twitter will now have the opportunity to watch, and engage with, live programming within the same feed, continuing the tradition of Twitter as the home of the gaming & pop culture conversation.”

TEAMS
Envy Gaming, the largest esports organization in Texas, announced plans to bring multiple dedicated venues to the region to “make social and competitive gaming more accessible to the North Texas community.” Partnering with Belong Gaming Arenas (see top story), that pair will design, build and operate a cobranded flagship gaming center and multiple smaller gaming centers in key North Texas cities. “Envy and Belong share a passion for creating experiences where fans of gaming and those playing games, whether for fun or at the competitive level, can come together and celebrate their interests in a safe, welcoming environment,” said Adam Rymer, CEO at Envy Gaming. “Partnering with a trusted global leader to develop physical spaces that provide comfort and create community in the North Texas gaming scene is an important focus for us at Envy.”

Misfits Gaming Group is broadening its partnership with the NBA’s Miami Heat and Orlando Magic to enable both NBA teams to include all MGG properties in strategic partnership opportunities and provides MGG with access to a wide variety of non-endemic brands interested in the esports market. “We’ve been a partner of MGG from its early stages and have been proud to watch it grow into one of the premier franchises in esports,” said Glen Oskin, Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for the Miami HEAT. “This new partnership including the Orlando Magic allows MGG and our partners to increase their visibility throughout the state of Florida while allowing Florida’s NBA franchises to further extend our footprint in the esports space. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”

Hawks Talon Gaming Club will team with StreamRecap, a platform that “builds video solutions that automate content creation and empower coaches in esports.” Hawks Talon becomes the first NBA 2K League affiliate to announce a deal with StreamRecap. As part of this effort, Hawks Talon GC will receive access to AI-powered instant highlights and a coaching suite which provides access for both Head Coach Wesley Acuff and the club’s players to review film and take notes in one central location.

READYUP SPOTLIGHT
LIFESTYLE & LICENSING

Fashion designer Heron Preston signed on as an Executive Brand Advisor for Gen.G with an eye to shape the brand through specialized design and creative consulting. “I’m really excited about this role with Gen.G. Having been built from digital communities that connect worldwide, esports are the future of entertainment and a cultural hotspot where new ideas will emerge,’ said Preston. “I am looking forward to exploring new territory with Gen.G; their inclusive, innovative, relevant and educationally-driven approach to gaming really resonates with what matters most to me.”

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