Activision Blizzard is talking with owners of Call of Duty League and Overwatch League teams about providing some form of financial relief amid the COVID-19 cash crunch, including possibly delaying franchise payments, sources say.
This was due to be a big year for both leagues, as OWL was starting its first with the full city homestand model that the property was predicated on, while CDL was starting its first year under a newly reformatted franchise system that also included geo-located teams and home games.
However, both leagues have had to move to online-only models for this year due to the pandemic, shaking up the original models for the leagues and their teams, many of whom were hoping to be profitable for the first time in 2020.
OWL and CDL are not unique in the sense that the pandemic has ravaged businesses across sports and entertainment. Still, sources say that the video game company is in discussions with team owners about finding ways to help alleviate some of their financial challenges. Sources said that this could take different forms, although one of the most obvious ways would be delaying franchise payment fees given that those are one of teams’ biggest annual expenses right now.
Activision Blizzard had no comment.
OWL franchises reportedly went for around $20M USD when the league first began in 2018 but expansion franchise fees the following year were said to go for more than that. CDL franchises reportedly went for $25M.
This comes after NRG Esports Founder and CEO Andy Miller made comments in a podcast last week that received little media attention but were notable in that he suggested that he may have passed on buying an OWL franchise and instead just focus on CDL if he could do it all over again. NRG owns the San Francisco Shock in OWL and the Chicago Huntsmen in CDL.
Miller, making an appearance on the Watchtime Podcast, was asked by a co-host whether in “20/20 hindsight, would you do the OWL again or probably just stick more to Call of Duty League?”
“If it was now, and I have NRG, which within the last year has become amazing, and I have Huntsmen, I would probably not do it — not to make headlines but only because there’s a lot of money to be spent now in two places at the same time, Call of Duty and Overwatch, and they’re both going through growing pains and both trying to figure it out … (Call of Duty) is fresh and in the U.S. at least it’s a cultural phenomenon. … We’re waiting. It’s a bet right now to figure out the right model, figure out how to survive in this pandemic without events, because actually the events for Overwatch sold really well, and they were fun and they were a good time and people liked it. We sold 4,000 tickets for two events pretty quickly, so there’s a business and fanbase there. Was it worth $20M right away? I don’t know, I think that was probably a bit piggish, same with Call of Duty, which was a bit more. But I don’t like betting and waiting.”
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