Activision Blizzard launched their eSports division last year with the former CEO of ESPN, Steve Bornstein, as the chairman and Mike Sepso of MLG as the vice president. Pete Vlastelica joins the team as their new president. Vlastelica created Yardbarker, an online sports network, and sold it to Fox in 2010. Since then, Vlastelica has been with FOX Sports as their executive vice president of digital up until he made the leap to eSports. His biggest achievements while with FOX Sports included launching programs like Garbage Time with Katie Nolan and organizing the digital infrastructure to stream Super Bowl XLVIII, which set a new record for online streaming of a sporting event.
Bobby Kotick, one of Activision's most well known executives, released a statement on their new hire saying, "We continue to add to our all-star eSports leadership team. Pete is an entrepreneurial leader with a history of creating inspired content and developing new digital channels of distribution. As we continue to build MLG into the premier esports network, Pete will further our mission celebrating the accomplishments of gamers worldwide."
Major League Gaming was acquired by Activision Blizzard earlier this year for $46 million. The buyout included all assets and personnel while allowing MLG to continue with its branding. MLG continues to operate mostly independently under Activision's umbrella, joining companies like Blizzard who retain a great deal of autonomy after becoming a part Activision.
"I'm joining MLG because of the rare combination of massive digital scale and deep audience engagement around competitive gaming, and because there's no better category of live streaming video content out there," said Vlastelica. "It's clear that video games are the future of sports - and if any company is positioned to capitalize on this global opportunity, it's Activision Blizzard. I'm thrilled to join the team."
This new hire follows a series of milestones for MLG. Back in April, MLG's Counter-Strike: GO Major Championship reached record viewership with 1.6 million concurrent viewers, 71 million views, and 45 million hours of footage broadcast across the internet. MLG launched a collaboration with Facebook several months ago to broadcast live events to the platform's potential audience of 1.6 billion people. Just a few days ago, Activision launched the Call of Duty World League while incorporating MLG to host its finals and cover Call of Duty XP.
Over 256 million people watched competitive gaming events this year alone. It seems that in all respects eSports continues to grow at a rapid pace. This latest move, bringing on leaders with experience in the world of traditional sports, seems to indicate that one of the largest eSports organizations in North America is gearing up for a big expansion, possibly even into the mainstream.