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Episode 10: Game on: An introduction to eSports

Thad Blenke Bob Wallace, Jr. January 6, 2020
Bobby Hacker
Thad Blenke
Bob Wallace
Bobby Hacker

For the last episode of 2019, host Bob Wallace sat down with fellow Thompson Coburn attorney Thad Blenke and Bobby Hacker, a sports media attorney at Law + Sports Media Consulting. The trio dissect the emerging eSports industry which has been making a global impact thanks to the popularity of live streaming gaming events by both individuals and professional teams. 

Thad, an associate in the firm’s intellectual property group, focuses his practice on patent protection, trademark and copyright issues. With an extensive background in electrical engineering, Thad was part of a group of students that designed a missile guidance system used by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. Today, outside of his practice, Thad is an avid gamer and has built several high-performing computers for the hobby.

Bobby Hacker, a sports media and business lawyer, spent 18 years as  Vice President of Business and Legal appearance at Fox Sports. Now, at the helm of his own law and sports consulting firm, Bobby focuses his work on representing sports media. He has recently begun focusing on eSports, representing both the event and production energies as well as eSport teams.

On professional gamers and who is watching them:
Thad: “Those who are playing these games are on the younger side.  A lot of them are younger males.  What I find very unique about eSports is that a lot of these players go professional at a very young age, sometimes right out of high school. They play for four to five years, retire at 22 or 23, become coaches, and then go to college. It’s not so different other sports like the NFL with the short careers.  But, they are very young compared to a lot of other athletes.”

Bobby: “You’re looking at age 18 to 24, there’s a good shot that those folks are “cord never’s.”  Not cord-cutters. They just never had it because they have always been able to get content because they’ve grown up in a universe where the broadband pipeline was big enough that they could get a high-quality feed.”

On intellectual property rights: 

Thad: “I’m seeing a lot of merchandising opportunities here. These teams have logos, insignias, sweatshirts. We’re just seeing the involvement of more businesses and the legal world trying to catch up to get it to an area that’s sustainable to grow."

Bobby: "The difference is that in this native digital environment you can create the opportunity for people to buy things supporting your team throughout the entire stream, throughout the entire 'broadcast.'  So the potential opportunity for selling merchandise is far more expansive and far more in your face than through traditional linear means of distributing content."

On the future of eSports:

Bobby: “And as long as there’s a community, which I believe there is in eSports. There may be some loyalty to a particular game, but if you’re a gamer much likes I’m a sports fan […] there will be other places for gamers to pant their flag and watch and engage and embrace and spend money.”

Thad: “This whole arena is all international.  These players are from all over.  The best are everywhere and they’re flipping leagues all the time.  And they also think you’re going to, as common as it is for us to go to baseball games these days, I think in about 30 years if you have an event for an eSports league that’s huge.”

Read the full transcript here.
After the Buzzer: Episode Guide