Activision Blizzard has confirmed today in a press release that it has purchased Major League Gaming in a deal estimated at $46 million. As a result, it will expand its reach across the rapidly-growing eSports ecosystem by adding proven live streaming capabilities and technologies to the Activision Blizzard Media Networks division, led by former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein and MLG Co-founder Mike Sepso.

“Our acquisition of Major League Gaming’s business furthers our plans to create the ESPN of esports. 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. MLG has an incredibly strong and seasoned team and a thriving community. Together, we will create new ways to celebrate players and their unique skills, dedication and commitment to gaming. We are excited to add Sundance and the entire MLG esports team to our competitive gaming initiatives,” said Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard.

Sundance DiGiovanni, Chief Executive Officer and MLG Co-founder, added, “Our mission for over 12 years has been to promote and expand the growth of competitive gaming worldwide, and today the industry is at a key inflection point as its popularity soars and rivals that of many traditional professional sports. This acquisition and Activision Blizzard’s commitment to competitive gaming will expand the opportunities for gamers to be recognized and celebrated for their competitive excellence.”

Although MLG saw a profit this past year, it’s still struggling to keep up, amassing a large debt that reportedly will be paid off with a majority of the $46 million. It also lost the rights to broadcast the World League tournaments to the Electronic Sports League (ESL) last year.

This is just the latest move by a publisher to move eSports-related activity in-house, rather than relying on a third party network for assistance. Last year, Electronic Arts introduced a new Competitive Gaming Division that would focus primarily on eSports, with EA Sports COO Peter Moore leading the charge.

Activision has been making a strong push towards developing its eSports, particularly with the introduction of the Call of Duty World League, which is co-sponsored by Sony and starts its regular competition this week. However, its latest purchase indicates that the publisher is more serious about eSports than anyone could have expected.

SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen provided some feedback on the purchase. “The larger underlying trend is that game publishers have started to attract online audiences and are increasingly looking to diversify their efforts across media channels,” he explained. “In addition, considering the current momentum behind eSports, it is no surprise that the segment is starting to consolidate.

“Earlier in the year, Swedish broadcasting group MTG acquired a majority share in ESL, MLG s rival, for $64M. Previously, Blizzard already acquired the assets of the IGN Pro League back in 2013. Now, with the acquisition of MLG s assets, Activision is on a path to further vertically integrate its effort behind competitive gaming and bolster its position.

“Following several other acquisitions and announcements from Activision, it is clear that the firm is evolving into a media conglomerate rather than a company that simply develops and publishes video games. This is a consistent trend we have also observed elsewhere in the industry, with firms like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Take-Two Interactive, as the potential of ad-based revenue has come into focus,” he concluded.

Superdata’s stats regarding eSports is as follows:

  • The current worldwide market for eSports totals $748M in revenues, and is on track to reach $1.9B by 2018E
  • The bulk of eSports revenues come from advertising, totaling $579M
  • Activision owns several of the most popular competitive gaming titles, including Hearthstone, StarCraft and Call of Duty. Most recently it released its MOBA contender, Heroes of the Storm, as a competitor to League of Legends (Tencent) and DOTA 2 (Valve).

MLG will continue to operate, MLG Pro Circuit and GameBattles platforms, and will continue to work with its partners and other publishers across the industry, according to the press release. No word if this will affect the company’s coverage of other franchises, like its Halo World Championship.

Between the purchase of MLG and the Call of Duty World League, it’ll be interesting to see where Activision Blizzard’s eSports interests go from here. It certainly looks like it’s ready for the competition.