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Top Sports Execs, Leagues Continue To Be Excited About E-Sports Possibilities

Top Sports Execs, Leagues Continue To Be Excited About E-Sports Possibilities

By Ben Fischer & Daniel Kaplan

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O'Connor said MSG and the Knicks are big supporters of e-sports
Team Shanghai playing the Esports Celtics? It is an idea that seems less far-fetched by the day. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Mark Tatum, speaking in the opening session of the ’17 CAA World Congress of Sports, talked about the league’s effort to create a new pro e-sports league in collaboration with video game partner 2K Sports. The league is set to debut next year. “Right now, we have more than half to two-thirds of our NBA teams who have signed up and said they will have teams in the NBA 2K Esports league,” Tatum said. “Long term, we can see a situation where a Team Shanghai is playing the Esports Celtics, or the E-Sixers are playing a team in Paris, and this becomes a truly global e-sports league.” MSG President & CEO David O’Connor said the company, and by extension the Knicks, are big supporters. “We’re going to be heavily invested,” O’Connor said. “We believe in it, and we’re actively in the marketplace now.” But panelists predicted industry consolidation, with intellectual property owners in a particularly strong position. “It’s definitely a goldrush,” said Fanatics Chair Michael Rubin, who also is a 76ers and Devils co-Owner and owner of e-sports entity Team Dignitas. "But anytime you see market euphoria, there’s generally a reason for it. I think there’s going to be an incredibly successful e-sports business, but my guess is that it will be centralized around a very small group of parties. The question is who takes the prize.”

WILD, WILD WEST
: The first pro team to buy an e-sports franchise was the 76ers, but team co-Owner David Blitzer during a later panel said it is still very unclear what was bought. Blitzer called e-sports the Wild West. “It’s buying a place within this new ecosystem where you don’t know exactly how it will turn out over time,” he said. Blitzer first learned about e-sports by reading an article about a sold-out event at MSG. Asked how he will measure success in three years, Blitzer replied: “Absolutely no idea.” He added that e-sports is about “growing our brand to the point where it is relevant.

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