Case Study: The making of a spectacle

This was a sponsored post by Lagardère Sports under the Master Report series.

Based in Philadelphia, Comcast Spectacor is an industry leader in professional sports, live events and entertainment. The company owns several professional sports teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League and the Philadelphia Fusion of the Overwatch League. In addition, it operates the Wells Fargo Centre, one of the busiest arenas in the world.

In February, Comcast Spectacor announced the formation of a global joint esports venture with South Korea’s SK Telecom, to be named T1 Entertainment & Sports. The new entity includes team SKT T1, who are three-time League of Legends world champions. We speak with Joe Marsh, chief business officer of Spectacor Gaming, following the announcement at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Although South Korea is currently the world’s third largest esports market, top Korean esports teams are rarely backed by American and European investors. Why did you choose to collaborate with SK Telecom (who founded SKT T1, the most decorated team in League of Legends’ history)?

When we first started out on our journey a year ago, we could not have imagined there would be an opportunity to partner such a world-class team. SK Telecom is the largest mobile company in Korea and SKT T1 is one of the most iconic teams in gaming. Luckily for us, the stars aligned. Both the timing and the receptiveness of two large companies willing to come together were major factors in this venture becoming a reality. We both believed in the initial vision and truly collaborated to create a global brand in T1 Entertainment & Sports – something that both organisations can be proud of.

We are looking to expand into more game titles and to explore other opportunities outside of traditional esports. Our organisation will always be rooted in gaming but we will look to leverage our unique backgrounds as media and live entertainment companies to bring a fresh perspective to the space.

There has been a clear trend of multinationals acquiring Asian esports teams. What’s fuelling corporate America and Europe’s interest to expand into Asian esports markets, and what are some challenges?

Asia has historically had some of the most talented players and winning is the fastest way to build a fan base. So it makes sense why many organisations are looking to Asia to find top teams and talent. Asia has always been the mecca of gaming and ahead of the curve in terms of technology (5G) and access to gaming (PC Bangs throughout the cities). In Asia, competitive mobile gaming is possible with games such as PUBG and Honor of Kings because the technology is in place. America and Europe are still working towards that.

In Korea, I’ve seen people playing PUBG mobile while riding the bullet train to Busan. It is something that always impresses me when I see it in person. Some of the challenges that any organisation would face is a potential for cultural and language barriers. Europe and America are different from one another and Asia is also unique. It is important to have strong local staff and team members in those markets that can help an outside organisation operate successfully in the region. We are fortunate at T1 to have great staff in place in both Asia and America.

What do you think are the fundamental differences between the esports ecosystems in America/Europe and Asia that will impact a company’s business strategy?

While [T1 Entertainment & Sports] will be rooted in Seoul and Philadelphia, many games we will look at potentially entering have talented players from different parts of the world. Korea is known for having the best StarCraft and League of Legends players, while China has done a great job with mobile gaming, especially around Honor of Kings. We’ve seen America and Europe excel with Call of Duty and Dota 2.

We will always look to operate a team in the region where the top player pool exists, whether that is in Korea, China, America or Europe. Battle Royale games are very popular right now and it allows for a larger player pool that can cross over from games such as Fortnite, PUBG and Call of Duty. We will look to be centralised where we can from an operations perspective in our headquarters – but our game operations department will scout anywhere to find the best players and new games.

Being a global brand will allow us to unlock capital in markets we don’t currently operate in. America currently has the largest corporate base to tap into from a corporate partner perspective. Unlocking those valuable dollars in America, but also in the expanded European and APAC regions will be essential to making the business flourish, especially early on in our transition.

The biggest areas of revenue in esports is in crafting and securing long-term mutually beneficial strategic partnerships with both endemic and non-endemic brands. Another area we are excited about is creating and owning original IP around our team and the gaming universe as a whole.

Our company has a deep history in media and content creation and we will look to leverage that experience for the future success of T1 Entertainment & Sports.

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