William Morris Endeavour Entertainment (WME), a multinational talent agency with a focus on Hollywood actors, chart-topping musicians and global sports stars, has acquired Global eSports Management (GEM) - which represents professional gamers.
The value of the move has not been disclosed, but represents a clear sign that major players in global entertainment are recognising the increasing importance, popularity and earning power of eSports worldwide. GEM was only founded in 2013, but already has an impressive roster of players, commentators and events in its portfolio. WME, on the other hand, describes itself as the "world's leading entertainment and media agency" and represents a significant financial and public relations endeavour.
"WME is proud to work with the best in the business across sports, entertainment, media, marketing, and fashion," said WME CEO Jason Lublin in a press release. "G.E.M. is no exception. Toby, Min-Sik and the team bring unparalleled industry knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit to our world-class digital talent offering. We see tremendous growth and opportunity in the eSports space and we're excited to bring this expertise in-house."
"This venture was created out of our passion for eSports and the desire to advocate for talent within the professional gaming industry"
GEM founders Tobias Sherman and Min-Sik Ko
"This venture was created out of our passion for eSports and the desire to advocate for talent within the professional gaming industry," added GEM founders Tobias Sherman and Min-Sik Ko. "By becoming a part of WME | IMG, we can maintain our core values while providing our clients with amazing access and opportunities they won't find anywhere else."
That "tremendous growth" can be quantified with some truly impressive numbers. The high-water mark so far was the 2013 League of Legends World Championship final, with 32 million viewers on Twitch - a figure which exceeds the viewing numbers for both the NBA finals and the World Series for the same year. 2014's final was watched by fewer people, a mere 27 million, but the highest concurrent viewer figure rose from 8.5 million to 11 million viewers. The winning team of 2014's final received a prize of $1 million.
GEM isn't the only company to score big on the rise and rise of professional gaming. Twitch itself, which facilitates so much of the audience reach of eSports, was bought out by Amazon last year for $970 million. The densely targeted demographic of its audience, alongside their loyalty and spending power, makes them a prime market for advertisers, making the arena one which will attract an increasingly vast amount of marketing revenues.
As with so many of the success stories currently surrounding the continuing evolution of 'new media', audience loyalty and engagement in eSports is heavily personality lead, with favourite players and commentators commanding tremendous followings. By bringing a number of well-established stars onto its books, WME buys itself a well-prepared slice of a hugely burgeoning and lucrative market. Expect other "traditional media" agencies to follow suit.