It seems like every week or so we see that new sports teams are getting involved in esports through purchasing teams and muscling their way into the scene with their massive bankrolls. But it turns out that not every sports team or executive are ready to make the plunge.
“We like esports a lot. We actually invested in an esports technology company, but our view today has been that owning an esports team is probably not the right place for us as an organization,” Brano Perkovich, Chief Investment Officer at the San Francisco 49ers said in a South by Southwest panel. "Esports, while I’m long overall, on the ownership side we’ll stay on the sidelines for now."
Some of the 49ers ownership and executives participated in a $15 million Series A funding round for Plays.tv, which is what Perkovich was referencing in his answer. He continued that Levi's Stadium, which seats 70,000 and is home to the 49ers, doesn't lend itself well to hosting esports. The biggest question for the 49ers? The return on investment for owning a team right now.
The question of returns is likely one of the reasons that NFL organizations, in particular, have hedged their bets on esports teams. After all, many of these teams own much larger, outdoor stadiums that aren't particularly well suited to hosting regular esports events - unlike the NBA, which are arena settings that have previously played host to esports events and are wired for such floor events. At the same time, with the amount of marketing capital an organization like the 49ers have, this is a solvable issue - so there's likely more reasons why NFL teams are staying their hand, for now.
In contrast, the NBA has readily involved themselves. The Philadelphia 76ers purchased Dignitas last September, and during the same week, NBA owners Magic Johnson, Peter Gruber, and Ted Leonsis acquired a controlling interest in Team Liquid through their investment group Axiomatic. Memphis Grizzlies Co-Owner and Co-Executive Chairman Steve Kaplan increased his stake in ownership of the Immortals.
Some more recent investments include the Miami Heat's acquisition of ownership stake in Misfits, as well as the Boston Bruins' ownership group's investment in Splyce. The NBA also announced that it will run its own esports league focused around NBA2K.
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