Bobby Kotick is a newcomer to SportsBusiness Journal's annual50 Most Influential list. He ranks at number 42 among a list of professional sports league commissioners, apparel chief executive officers and sports team owners. Kotick is probably the least known name on the list, but that may change in short time.
You may not even be aware of the company he runs --Activision Blizzard -- which is responsible for launching the video game success Overwatch. Yet, that company, founded in 1979, has been named 1 of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune and boasts annual revenues in excess of $4 billion.
Kotick's inclusion within SportsBusiness Journal's list of most influential individuals in the business of sports is perhaps most notable because it is the first involvement of someone who is dedicated to the growth of e-sports. As stated by the publication, "[i]n the alluring world of esports, nobody's got more balls in the air that Kotick."
And that is a good thing. People arebetting on e-sports revenues to grow past $500 million annually in 2017. They are also literally increasing their bets on e-sports competitions, per OnlineCasinoReports.com, which says that betting operators are allocating more of their energies and budgets into setting up refined e-sports betting products with wider coverage of games and betting markets.
Additionally, many professional sports team owners have become involved in the space, investing millions of dollars on e-sports teams that perform in competitions around the world. One sports team owner, Ted Leonsis,recently explained his investment.
"The real benefit was being at the birth of something real and new that's global," said Leonsis. "The first step was, let's get a seat at a table, be polite and learn about e-gaming and what it could hold. Could a league emerge, and what will that mean? Are there branded products and hardware we can be licensing? What intellectual property can we develop on our own?"
Kotick's answer to the league question is a definitive yes. As discussed by SportsBusiness Journal, Kotick is currently selling the likes of professional sports team owners such as Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on e-sports team ownership in a new league. That league is expected to launch at some point in 2017, per EvoNews.
The new league will be focused on Activision Blizzard's Overwatch game. It will seek to mirror other professional sports leagues by including independently owned franchises with fan bases separated by home location of the respective teams.
It will not be the first attempt at the creation of an e-sports league. Turner, with WME | IMG, created the ELEAGUE, and they are currently in their second season of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition.
Kotick's league structure seems to invite visions of grandeur, with the potential of revenues that could quickly outpace that of the ELEAGUE. If that turns out to be true, then he can expect his name to rise up the ranks among those at the top of sports business.