Dallas, Houston, Philly join Overwatch esports league

Markets Associated Press

Dave Scott is quick to note he wasn't at Comcast Spectacor when the company sold the Philadelphia 76ers six years ago.

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The NBA franchise Comcast Spectacor sold for about $280 million in October 2011 was valued this year by Forbes at $800 million and could probably sell for more — the Houston Rockets recently sold for $2.2 billion.

Scott, the chief executive officer at Comcast Spectacor, joined the company in 2013 following a 20-year tenure at Comcast Cable.

"I know (76ers owner) Josh Harris is a happy camper with what's going on," Scott said, with a laugh. "But we have a real good relationship with those guys."

Comcast Spectacor owns the Philadelphia Flyers and the home arena for the NBA and NHL teams, the Wells Fargo Center.

Now, the company owns an esports franchise. Philadelphia and teams from Dallas and Houston have joined the inaugural season of the esports Overwatch League. There will be 12 franchises representing cities in Asia, Europe and North America in the competitive video gaming league set to start later this year.

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Team Envy (Dallas) and OpTic Gaming (Houston) also were announced Wednesday with Philadelphia as the new franchises.

The league begins with exhibition matches in December and the regular season runs from January to July. All games will be held at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles in Burbank, California.

Scott said research showed there more than 300,000 Overwatch video game players in the market, fueling the decision to buy into the league.

"We think this is the right place to do it," he said.

There is no team name yet for the Philadelphia franchise. Scott said he would like the competitive gaming league to eventually hold events in Philadelphia, though the Wells Fargo Center is likely a larger arena than needed.

"Clearly by the third year, we'll be in Philadelphia, which we're excited about," he said. "We'll look for more of a boutique type of venue, cozier, probably 3,000 to 5,000 seats."

Out of the NBA, Comcast-Spectacor continues to gobble up other sports teams.

Comcast Spectacor announced last week it bought a lacrosse franchise that will begin play in the 2018-19 season in the National Lacrosse League. The franchise will be named through a "Name the Team" contest on the team's website.

The Philadelphia Wings were the last professional lacrosse team in the city, playing from 1986 until 2014. Another team named the Wings played in the Eagle Box Lacrosse League in Philadelphia from 1974-75.

"Whether we're marketing the Flyers, lacrosse or now our Overwatch League team, there's going to be a lot of synergy there," he said.

Comcast Spectacor purchased the ECHL's Alaska Aces franchise over the summer and relocated the team to Portland, Maine. Spectra, the company's hosting and entertainment division, manages the PPL Center, home of the Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Scott said there are no other team franchise purchases planned.

More details on the Overwatch League, including team names, logos, and colors, and the inaugural season's schedule and format, will be announced in the coming months.

Overwatch was created by Blizzard Entertainment.

The Overwatch League player agreement says teams will sign players to one-year guaranteed contracts with the option to extend the contract for an additional year and the minimum salary for players is $50,000 per year. Teams will provide players with health insurance and a retirement savings plan.

"One of the big considerations of working with Overwatch was the longevity of their games and product," Scott said.