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Activision Blizzard to Broadcast Live eSports on Facebook

Video-game giant Activision Blizzard is teaming up with Facebook to deliver live eSports tournament coverage on the social-media service worldwide.

Activision Blizzard Media Networks, headed by former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein, will launch its new eSports network and programming during the MLG Anaheim Open, a two-day “Call of Duty: Black Ops III” tournament that kicks off June 10, 2016.

The MLG Anaheim Open will also be the inaugural event as for MLG.tv’s live broadcasts on Facebook. The company unveiled the pact at its Digital Content NewFronts event Thursday in NYC.

Eventually, Activision Blizzard expects to stream live video content on a daily basis on MLG’s Facebook page, including match highlights, stats, interviews and commentary.

“Esports is an exciting space and continues to be a growing priority for us,” said Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships. “With over 1.6 billion people on the platform and a growing suite of VOD and live-streaming products that partners can use to increase engagement, Facebook is uniquely positioned to help eSports fans connect around exciting moments and great eSports content.”

Facebook has been actively trying to bring live-video partners to its service, in some cases paying media companies and celebs to broadcast on Facebook Live. It had been in talks with the NFL about carrying live Thursday night games next season before Twitter clinched the deal.

Activision acquired Major League Gaming, one of the biggest eSports leagues, in January. On Thursday, MLG.tv showed off its “Enhanced Viewing Experience,” an HD video stream with an algorithmic feed of match statistics, up-to-the-minute leaderboards and insights based on the competition they are watching.

The company also announced Chris Puckett, a broadcast veteran and retired pro gamer, as MLG.tv’s new host. Puckett’s daily “ESR” broadcast will feature highlights, interviews and news segments covering the eSports.

“We’re building a network dedicated to the thrill of competition and the passion of the fans,” said Bornstein. “MLG.tv will play a defining role in realizing the full potential of this audience by creating meaningful, memorable and shareable content.”

The company also touted results from MLG’s “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championship,” held March 30-April 3 in Columbus, Ohio. The event garnered 71 million video views online, and viewers watched a record-breaking 45 million hours of live video (with a peak of 1.6 million concurrent viewers).

The mushrooming eSports industry — with revenue projected to grow from $463 million in 2016 to $1.1 billion by 2019, according to research firm NewZoo — has attracted several new entrants trying to grab a piece of the pie.

Turner and WME-IMG’s newly formed ELeague is set to kick off May 24 on digital platforms with a Friday night showcase televised live on TBS (weekly at 10 p.m. Eastern). The “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” tourneys will be held at a new 10,000-square-foot stadium built at Turner’s studios in Atlanta.

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