SBD/November 13, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Minding My Business: Major League Gaming Co-Founder & CEO Sundance DiGiovanni

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DiGiovanni said everything MLG does sounds and feels like a sport
Major League Gaming co-Founder & CEO SUNDANCE DIGIOVANNI has been around the video game circuit for a while now, having started the company in '02. But ahead of this month's MLG Championship event in Columbus, even he is impressed by its growth. DiGiovanni said he expects the event to bring in record ticket sales, breaking the previous mark set this spring at the Anaheim Convention Center. He chatted with THE DAILY this week about pushing MLG to new audiences, how Rockets GM DARYL MOREY has contributed as a BOD member, and how he uses bacon as a bargaining tactic.

Gaming is growing...
One of the big things we're working on with Relativity Media is how we mainstream the brand, bring in new people, expose folks to what we're all about. And that's to broaden it out -- to bring in the secondary audiences that we're starting to see a little bit of growth in, and some real traction. Everybody plays games now; it’s not just guys 18-34, although they're always going to be the core of it. There's a lot of overlap there. We're seeing girlfriends, we're seeing sisters, sometimes even moms. We're also kind of taking a page from ESPN's book. You might see us start to go to some events that you wouldn't necessarily associate with videogames, as well as the usual E3s and what not. The Relativity relationship allows us to get people like DWIGHT HOWARD out to events, and you're going to see us leaning on some of their abilities to attract stars. 

Game vs. Sport...
If you look at the way we've started to present and broadcast what we do, it all sounds and feels like a sport. The energy is very similar to a sports broadcast. More importantly, when you get in the room, when you're sitting in that room, it sounds like, feels like, has the energy of a sporting event.

The Rocket man...
Daryl Morey is an awesome fan of E-sports in general. He's just somebody I spoke to and immediately had a connection with. He just has so much experience in the traditional sports world and what works and what doesn't, and understanding the entertainment factors that it was a great opportunity. He's out there banging the drum for us with folks who are a little hesitant, as you might expect, in the traditional sports world. It’s helping and making a real difference. He is a Moneyball type of a guy, and that's really how we operate our business. We're very data-driven.

Negotiations go awry when...
We've had bad experiences with people who are a little young, you could say. They had big expectations but hadn't necessarily delivered enough value, because everybody wants to be a pro and everybody thinks they're good, or better than what they are. Our industry needs more self-reflection, because everybody comes at this thinking they have all the answers when, in fact, that's not the case. This is still a growing business, a growing industry. There's a lot of opportunity, but you can't force it. 

Daily media diet...
ESPN Radio. Getting coffee and getting ready to go to work, it’s usually "MIKE & MIKE." I love it. Having that on in the morning is very comforting and kind of sets me up for my initial conversations in the office just in case I miss some scores. Other mainstays are TechCrunch, BusinessInsider, The Verge. I kind of have a shifting consumption habit where I get articles sent to me, and I stockpile them and read them later.

Favorite apps...
Probably HipChat. We use that to communicate in the office, so when I’m on the road, to kind of stay up to date with what’s going on with the engineering team or the advertising team or the executive team. Evernote is a big one for me because I like to keep my notes synched across everything. I went from someone who had notebooks all over the place and was constantly trying to remember what was written in one I couldn't find and Evernote fixed that. 

On the playlist...
"Black Elvis/Lost In Space" by COOL KEITH. It’s a classic -- hard to find, it came out in ’99 -- but I’m a big Cool Keith fan. When I was a younger man, I used to go to his shows and listen to him a lot, and it's a really funky and interesting album.

Big Apple bites...
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, across the street from our office on Park Avenue, it’s great and the bacon’s fantastic. You can always tell what you're dealing with in a business meeting if you open up with a big slab of bacon. How people react to that -- you know right away.
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