Blizzard’s Overwatch League has sold the rights to a pair of new franchises. Traditional sports team owners Stan and Josh Kroenke have purchased a second Los Angeles Overwatch League franchise and esports team Cloud9 has agreed to purchase a London franchise, Blizzard informed Sports Business Daily today.
Set to open play later this year, Overwatch League is now up to nine franchises with these two additions, the latter of which puts the league’s first European team on the map.
“This means we now have representation in Europe, North America, and Asia,” Pete Vlastelica, the President and CEO Major League Gaming, an Activision Blizzard subsidiary that operates the league, told Sports Business Daily. “For us, the headline is this is the first truly global league in sports history. As well as the intrigue of having two teams in Los Angeles, we’re pretty proud of the announcement.”
ESPN reports that each ownership group will pay Blizzard’s previously reported $20 million standard asking price for their franchise rights. Blizzard told ESPN that it plans to open the league’s first season with 12 teams, but the developer informed Sports Business Daily that it’s aiming to open its first season with 12 teams.
The addition of a second Los Angeles team contradicts Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer’s statement last month that the league would allow only one team per city.
The Kroenkes own traditional sports teams L.A. Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Arsenal FC. Stan Kroenke met with Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick at last year’s Blizzcon, fueling speculation that about a potential Overwatch League team purchase.
“Building communities around the best competitive experiences in the world is incredibly rewarding, and the Overwatch League offers the chance to create something special,” Josh Kroenke told Sports Business Daily.
Cloud9, meanwhile, already owns esports teams in nine other games. Outside investors including former athletes, traditional sports teams owners, and a Chinese video game company recently added new funding to Cloud9’s coffers.
“Cloud9 still continues to be profitable, and as far as my investors are concerned, they’re convinced that the Overwatch League is going to do well,” Cloud9 CEO Jack Etienne told ESPN. “The league that Overwatch is making is really unique in the sense that it’s global — it’s not a regional league — and in esports, we always see the largest viewership in international events.”
Cloud9 and Kroenke’s teams are the eighth and ninth confirmed Overwatch League franchises. Six other teams were revealed last month, and ESPN reported earlier this week that Team EnVyUS, backed by Hersh Family Investments, would purchase an Austin-Dallas, Texas team.