Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based professional basketball team the 76ers have acquired a pair of notable esports teams, a first for a pro sports team in North America.
It’s a fascinating illustration of the growing convergence between traditional and digital athletics. Professional videogame players are already treated as athletes as far as the U.S.visa application process is concerned, major sports news networks like ESPN now broadcast esports events, and this summer’s Olympic games in Rio ran alongside a first-of-its-kind esports showcase. And it’s big business: while the terms of Dignitas’s and Apex’s acquisitions were not disclosed, some esports teams have been valued between $5 million and $15 million, and a lot of industries now consider a brand extension into professional videogame playing a smart business move.
“We like to be agents of change, rather than sit and watch from the sidelines,” said Scott O’Neil, chief executive officer of the Philadelphia 76ers, in a statement. “Our owners, Josh [Harris] and David [Blitzer], have big eyes, big vision, and big appetite.”
As ESPN notes, Harris and Blitzer have acquired a number of teams in the last five years, apart from the 76ers: they also own ice hockey team the New Jersey Devils and English professional soccer team Crystal Palace, as well as some minor league teams. Dignitas and Apex are, together, believed to offer “a guaranteed spot” in this year’s League of Legends World Championships, which kicks off this Thursday.
Apart from LoL, Dignitas also has players competing in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and Smite.
“There’s no denying the fact that esports presents corporate America with a way to reach millennials in a way stick and ball sports just isn’t,” said O’Neil, pretty much cutting right to the heart of the matter.
Top image source: Michael Bryant, philly.com.
Disclosure: Zam and League of Legends developer Riot share a corporate parent. Riot has no control over Zam’s editorial.