The business of esports is worth nearly $1 billion.
Caroline Beasley — the CEO of a $257 million publicly traded broadcasting company and a nationally known 35-year radio industry executive — isn’t exactly the prime demographic target for esports. For the uninitiated, esports is people playing video games on TV, an already big and rapidly growing business.
But the company she runs, Naples-based Beasley Media Group, is going all-out into esports. The latest, in an 18-month run of esports investments, was announced Nov. 14, when the firm acquired the Houston Outlaws, an esports team in the Overwatch League. The Overwatch League is an international esports league made up of 20 city-based teams across Asia, Europe and North America. The teams, in a 280-match regular season that starts in February, play against one another, which culminates in fall playoffs. Players have guaranteed salaries, and the league has a prize pool of some $5 million.
“Gen Z and Gen Y are really into this,” Caroline Beasley tells Coffee Talk. “They watch esports the way our generations used to watch basketball or traditional sports.”
There’s some data to back that up: The industry, for one, will surpass $1 billion in total value in 2019, the first time it crosses that mark, according to a report from research firm Newzoo. That’s up 26.7% from 2018, the report adds, with 82% of the market in media rights, advertising and sponsorship opportunities.
Those last three areas are a Beasley Media strength, which is why the company pursued the sector starting 18 months ago. In fall 2018 it acquired CheckpointXP, a weekly syndicated esports lifestyle show on 70 radio stations nationwide. Then, in April, it invested in Team Renegades, a Detroit-based esports organization. The total cost of the investments, in those entities and in the Outlaws, wasn’t disclosed in public documents. (Forbes magazine, which tracks the esports business, estimates Beasley Media paid $35 million for the Outlaws.)
Caroline Beasley says the Outlaws purchase, from an affiliate of a company named Immortals Gaming Club, covers several needs, beyond esports expansion. For one, it’s an entry into a heavily populated market, Houston, with more reach into Austin and San Antonio — new territories for the company. The move also gives Beasley Media access to the audiences of the company that founded the Overwatch League, Blizzard Entertainment, a division of esports and video game leader Activision Blizzard.
The Overwatch League will begin its third season in February 2020, and each team hosts matches in their home markets. A Florida team, the Mayhem, will play home games in Orlando and Miami next year.
Beasley says Beasley Media, in seeking to diversify revenue streams, wanted to move quickly on the esports trend. Now with the Outlaws in the fold, it plans to host events and integrate the team into other parts of the company. “The more we learned about the space, the more we wanted to be in it,” Beasley says. “We are making a big bet that this will continue to grow.”