Advance Publications has acquired a majority stake in Dutch esports and gaming research shop Newzoo. Founded in Amsterdam in '07, Newzoo has become a go-to data source for brands, investors and journalists evaluating the emerging world of competitive video gaming. Advance, the parent company of Sports Business Journal/Daily and Conde Nast, will “make a significant capital investment” to accelerate Newzoo’s growth, according to a statement. Newzoo will also support Sports Business Journal’s expansion into market intelligence, data and analytics for the traditional sports industry, with the first such product expected to be published in early '19. Financial terms were not disclosed. Today’s deal follows on SBJ’s recent acquisition of Leaders and investment in The Esports Observer. Talks with Newzoo first began as Advance execs were looking for more investment targets in esports, but enthusiasm grew as they met with the founders and realized Newzoo’s potential in other sports verticals. "Adding Newzoo to the Advance family of companies will add innovative power and capabilities to our group and help us build our sports intelligence business,” said SBJ co-Founder & CEO Whitney Shaw. "Combining the data and resources that we already have at SBJ with the tech, talent, and expertise of Newzoo will be amazing. I cannot wait to get started and share more about our plans in the near future.” Newzoo co-Founder & CEO Peter Warman said he found exactly the buyer he was looking for: an independent company with complementary lines of business in media and technology. "Being part of the Advance family of companies provides us with new opportunities, such as our partnership with Sports Business Journal, a prospect that I’m particularly excited about,” Warman said. With the Advance investment, Newzoo is targeting growth in Asia and the U.S., and will increase its capabilities in big data processing, machine learning and interface technology, co-Founder & CFO Thijs Hagoort said.
The Overwatch League will cut the length of the season from 40 games to 28 for every team in '19, freeing up more time for teams to build local fan bases and produce non-competition content for sponsors. The season will begin on Feb. 14 instead of early January, giving the preseason marketing window more distance from the late December holiday season. Teams played twice weekly last year with just one week off between season stages. Some teams this year will have bye weeks or play just one game each week, and there will be a longer break around the All-Star Game. All contests will again be at the Blizzard Arena in L.A., but teams’ local revenue depends on them being able to activate in their home markets. “One of the most consistent pieces of feedback we received from teams is that if we’re playing two matches every week and just a one-week break between stages, it’s really hard to get the players back to Houston, or Boston, or even San Francisco to spend time with partners, or to do fun events with fans,” said OWL Dir of Franchises & Competition Jon Spector. “It’s a big priority for us to enable more of that type of local activation.” There is a sense coming out of the OWL’s first season that fewer games can better focus fan enthusiasm on higher-stakes contests, Spector said. Despite the cut in schedules, there will be a net increase of 40 games operated by OWL because of the addition of eight expansion teams. Meanwhile, OWL announced that the expansion franchises would be placed in the two existing divisions, Atlantic and Pacific. Paris, Toronto, DC and Atlanta will join the Atlantic Division, while Vancouver, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hangzhou will join the Pacific Division.
Infinite Esports & Entertainment President Chris Chaney is out of a job and 19 employees have been laid off, new President Ryan Musselman confirmed. Infinite, the holding company created by Chaney and MLB Rangers co-Owner & COO Neil Leibman after Leibman acquired OpTic Gaming in '17, had about 70 employees before the changes. "We grew too fast,” said Musselman, who had been Senior VP/Global Partnerships. Chaney will retain his co-founder and ownership position. He did not return a message seeking comment. The organization remains committed to its holding-company approach to esports, Mussleman said. Its subsidiaries include: Ngage, a live events operator; Triggerfish, a sponsorship sales agency; the original OpTic Gaming franchise; the Overwatch League Houston Outlaws; and other companies. However, execs will renew a focus on what he called “foundational” brands such as OpTic, the OpTic franchise in the North American League of Legends Championship Series and the Outlaws. “I do want to emphasize we’re not losing sight of the model of what we built,” he said. Across esports, many team organizations that recently accepted large infusions of cash from eager investors have had to confront slower-than-hoped-for revenue growth. Musselman declined to address Infinite’s financial condition directly, but acknowledged the changes will establish a “healthy operating position." Official confirmation of the changes comes after several former employees confirmed they had left in recent days on their personal social media accounts. Leibman in a statement said, “I’m very confident about our model and esports in general. I will continue working closely with Ryan and the new leadership at Infinite; I am positive the recent changes are the right way to move forward for our long term success in the esports business."