NBA AND TAKE-TWO INTERACTIVE LAUNCHING NBA2K ESPORTS LEAGUE; PLAYERS WILL COMPETE FOR CONTRACTS AND ENDORSEMENT DEALS

The NBA and Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) will be launching an “NBA2K” esports league in the spring of 2018. Teams representing NBA organizations will be comprised of 5 digital athletes, each competing for contracts and endorsement deals in addition to the league championship. The idea is for the league to mirror the NBA as closely as possible, with players treating the season as a full-time job. 17 teams will compete in the inaugural season, though important details including; how to draft players, the set-up for broadcasting/streaming and the implementation of a salary cap are still to be worked out.

Howie Long-Short: Amazon (AMZN) owned Twitch publishes rankings reflecting esports games with the most viewers, hours watched etc. While “League of Legends” (HKG: 0700) drew 43 million viewers to their final, “NBA2K” drew less than 4,000 over the last week. The game also sits behind both “FIFA” (EA) and “Madden” (EA) in the viewership rankings. This partnership has a long way to go before it becomes a profitable venture.

Fan Marino: A big issue that is often overlooked when discussing a sports game as a viable esport, is that sports games are designed as a simulation. Since the games are meant to reflect real life as closely as possible, some players/teams are better than others. That causes a competitive balance problem. If you fix the stats to create parity, the game no longer provides a realistic simulation of the sport.

The NBA 2K League: What We Know So Far, And Can It Succeed As An Esport?

ESPN HIRES POWERHOUSE AD AGENCY DROGA5; FOX SPORTS HIRES INCUMBENT WIEDEN + KENNEDY AS AGENCY OF RECORD

ESPN (DIS) has enlisted creative ad agency Droga5 with the task of reaching its ever diversifying (i.e. women) and distracted viewer base (i.e. various online platforms). The ad agency that counts Under Armour (UAA), Tencent (HKG: 0700) & Dos Equis (AMS: HEIA) as clients, will handle both creative and strategic, for the overall brand and its feature show “SportsCenter”. Droga5 has big shoes to fill though, as former agency of record Wieden + Kennedy was responsible for the popular “This is SportsCenter” campaign. Rival Fox Sports has since hired Wieden + Kennedy as its agency of record to work on a new ad campaign for the start of college football season.

ESPN Taps Ad Agency Droga5 for New Branding Effort

Howie Long-Short: ESPN cut paid media promotion from $26.3 million in 2016, to under $9 million in H1 ’17. As the company continues to lose subscribers, I would expect ad spend continues to drop.

Fan Marino: The monkey see, monkey do game continues at Fox Sports, this time on the advertising side. If ESPN touches it, Fox Sports wants it. If you want to give one former ESPN personality a watch/listen on Fox Sports, make it Colin Cowherd.

NFL PARTNERS WITH TENCENT HOLDINGS TO BROADCAST GAMES LIVE, IN CHINA

The NFL has announced a 3-year agreement with Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings (HKG: 0700), that will make Tencent Sports the exclusive internet streaming provider of the NFL in China. Live games and on-demand content will be available through Tencent’s mobile application & desktop terminal. The NFL sees China as an emerging market, with live streaming viewership up 17% last season, to 37 million viewers.

NFL Announces Three-Year Partnership With China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd.

Howie Long-Short: Tencent owned social networks Weixin & WeChat have 960 million active monthly users, so there is no shortage of room for growth within the market. My question is, are Chinese football fans willing to pay for live content that airs at 1a and 4a local time on Monday morning?

Fan Marino: Content will include: “All TNF, SNF and MNF games. Select Sunday afternoon games. The playoffs and the Super Bowl.” That’s all good and fine, but how are these new fans supposed to track their fantasy teams without NFL RedZone?