Activision Blizzard has already made it clear that it’s taking eSports seriously, between the introduction of a Media Network Division expressing interest in competition and the Call of Duty World League going full steam. But CEO Bobby Kotick believes its potential could be even greater than realized, especially when it comes to revenue.
During the company’s fourth quarter earnings call earlier this week, Kotick noted how eSports could very well reach the point of making billions of dollars, putting it on the level of other sports leagues like the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball.
He pointed out how spectators tuned in to approximately 1.5 billion hours of video content based around Activision Blizzard’s games last year – a portion of the seven billion spectators that tuned in to the NFL’s 2014/2015 season. “Those televised games generated approximately $7 billion of broadcast rights fees for the NFL and another $4 billion on other revenues including sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales,” explained Kotick. “When we think about our franchises, we view our responsibilities to our fans and the associated business opportunity through the lens of these leagues like the NFL, the Premier League, the NBA, Major League Baseball or NHL.”
While grosses may not be as “meaningful” as they can be, Kotick did note the small investment, “really less than a couple of pennies.” However, the investment is expected to increase over the next few years, leading to higher revenue, and that could give the other sports leagues some serious competition.
“What we step back and look at is ESPN,” he explained. “And when you look at ESPN with 80 million subscribers and you see the flight of some of the subscribers. The opportunities that we see there is roughly $5 billion of operating profit, $4 billion of league payments for the broadcast rights. We have 80 million of our own players.”
ESports is expected to jump even further in popularity this year. Along with regularly broadcasted tournaments, it’s expected to get greater exposure on television, between ESPN forming its own eSports group, TBS preparing a Counter-Strike series this summer, and the CW preparing a Mortal Kombat X tournament for next week.
ESports aren’t quite on the level of the NFL, but at the rate it’s going, it could definitely bring competition sooner rather than later.