OverActive Media acquires rights to Call of Duty esports franchise

OverActive Media president and CEO Chris Overholt flanked by Toronto Defiant's players (@jaycrewphotography/OverActive Media)

Toronto Defiant ownership group OverActive Media is adding another piece to what is already a robust esports portfolio.

Announced Thursday, OAM has acquired the rights to a Toronto franchise in the forthcoming city-based Call of Duty esports league that will be operated by Activision Blizzard.

“We’re really excited to be expanding our relationship with Activision Blizzard. It’s always been our intention to do this and to be not only engaged in the Call of Duty League once it was announced by Activision Blizzard in their intention to get going on it,” OAM president and CEO Chris Overholt told Sportsnet over the phone Thursday. “We really wanted to be early to the league, we wanted to demonstrate our partnership with Activision Blizzard and today we’re really excited to be doing that.”

In acquiring a Call of Duty franchise, the Toronto-based OAM is the only esports organization in the world to own three permanent franchises as they also own the Defiant in the Overwatch League and run a LEC League of Legends squad in Europe.

Alongside Toronto, four other cities were announced for this new league on Thursday, New York, Atlanta, Dallas and Paris, France.

This new Call of Duty league will follow the same mould that Activision Blizzard has already established with its Overwatch League.

“In each of the five founding franchises announced today, we are partnering with existing Overwatch League team owners who have first-hand experience of our esports vision and capabilities and recognize the scale of the opportunity for a global, city-based Call of Duty league,” said Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard CEO, in a statement. “We look forward to announcing more details around these cities and other team sales in the coming months.”

That OAM decided to get involved with Call of Duty esports makes sense not just because of the partnership it has with the Overwatch League but because within the company’s assortment of esports teams and organizations, its acquisition of Splyce immediately made OAM a major player within the game’s professional scene.

Splyce boasts one of the world’s best Call of Duty teams and recently took home $80,000 for finishing second in the most recent Call of Duty World League – the current top Call of Duty esports league – stop in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Our Splyce team that plays in the Call of Duty World League is among the top two or three teams in world today,” said Overholt. “So not only do we expect to be leaders in the boardroom in the context of growing OverActive Media’s business, but we expect to be highly competitive inside this league and we feel like we already have a bit of a running start in that regard.”

Call of Duty is one of the most popular first-person shooter franchises in video game history, having sold over 250 million copies according to financial data from 2016 and, as Overholt claims, 200 million global players.

Unlike Overwatch, Call of Duty has a lot more mainstream appeal, something that Overholt says can only help the OAM brand.

“I think it does a few of things for OverActive Media,” he said. “It firmly roots us as franchise holders as a business invested in the biggest esports leagues in the world. Secondly, it gives us another dimension to our marketing offer that represents the slightly broader audience and, frankly, the little bit older audience that I think will make sense to some of the marketing partnerships and relationships that we enjoy. And thirdly, it once again demonstrates to the investor community how serious we are about what we’re doing here.

“We are in this for the long term. We really believe we’re building a massive global business right here in Toronto and this has always been a core piece of our strategy and we’re really pleased to be announcing today it’s being realized.”

There’s not yet been a firm date announced when this Call of Duty league would start but it wind that a city-based esports outfit like the Overwatch League was first heard about back in February.


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