Podcast Alert: Chris Overholt – OverActive Media
Chris and AJ discuss how OAM’s esports model reflects traditional sports properties that own and operate teams in multiple leagues. They also examine how brands can use esports to authentically reach younger generations.
2:00 Chris Overholt’s background
6:30 OAM: A media company for the 21st century
19:40 How traditional sports properties reach an esports audience
23:45 The future of esports fandom
34:45 Crypto, gambling, and emerging trends
39:35 Rapid Fire Questions
Chris Overholt: [00:00:00] Many of the Gen Z’s and soon the gen alphas, aren’t inclined to watch three hours of Ohio State football, or, you know, aren’t inclined to sit down for two and a half hours and watch a hockey game from tip to tail. It’s a generation that has shifted. And so, we’ve been building a company and a strategy out around reaching authentically and connecting with authentically that audience.
AJ Maestas: Hello, and welcome to the Navigating Sports Business podcast. I’m your host AJ Maestas, founder of Navigate a data-driven consulting firm, guiding major strategies and decisions in sports and entertainment. We started this podcast hoping to share the [00:01:00] interesting stories and experiences of the amazing people we get to work with them.
And even though they’re visionaries and famous in many instances, their true stories aren’t often heard since they’re not on the playing field. Our hope is you get to know them better and learn from them as we have.
Today I’m happy to be joined by Chris Overholt president and CEO of overactive media. How are you doing Chris?
Chris Overholt: Good to see you. Happy new year.
AJ Maestas: Good to see you too. And happy new year. I am sorry. You’re on lockdown up there.
Chris Overholt: Yeah, it’s the story that won’t end, but yeah, listen, like count myself fortunate and our country quite fortunate in the scheme of things here.
So, it’ll be, we’ll be around the corner soon enough but thanks.
AJ Maestas: I get that. Everyone’s tired by the way. All over the world, right? That’s not just a. Rare if not uniquely American thing, but I think everyone’s had their no doubt. They’ve had fatigue. Not that I want to dominate our topic today with [00:02:00] e-sports, but it’s a big deal.
Cause you’re a traditional stick and ball guy and you have a resume. Unlike people you see in e-sports running an organization like OverActive Media, you were the president and CEO now of OverActive Media. But before that, you were running the Canadian Olympic Committee for almost a decade CMO of the dolphins, COO, and VP of business operations at the Panthers.
Maybe sports or entertainment, of course, you know, in a senior role there, starting at the Raptors as far as at least your sports career. So, can you tell us about your transition? Like what in the world is happening? How did this happen and how did you get up to speed?
Chris Overholt: Yeah, you know, it’s funny. I feel very fortunate of course, to have had the experiences I’ve had, and it might not seem on the surface that it’s all relevant, but it absolutely is.
You can’t spend 25 years in one industry and not have it be relevant. Of course. Maybe as importantly, I think that the sports industry is going to inform the e-sport industry and vice versa in the coming years. I think in some ways it already is. It’s certainly informing our strategy in a way we think about the growth of [00:03:00] development of our business and, and the leagues and the teams that we’ve invested in as a start. The adjustment was actually energizing.
It’s funny. I was thinking about it on the weekend now, knowing what I know, I should have been scared to death. I should have perhaps realized how big a step it was and how little money we had in the scheme of things when we started and just how big a leap it was. But I didn’t, I was actually more energized by the change and by the potential of the industry and the people I was engaged with, the partners I was working.
I was engaged about the idea to, to build something new from scratch in a new industry. And I suppose by extension have a hand in building an industry and that’s certainly come to fruition. I think in a number of ways for me and for us as a company. So, the adjustment wasn’t heavy at all, but maybe just because I was blind to all of it. Maybe, because I was just so excited to be doing something new and, and to be engaged in the way that I was. But the lessons that I took from sports and entertainment have applied [00:04:00] here. And so, in that way, yeah, quite applicable.
AJ Maestas: But you’re already looking at an e-sports person. Right. Our mutual friend, Paul Foster, thanks to your introduction.
It gives you rave reviews right on the global stage, right. As far as words. And when you walk in the room, but you know, I mean, I’m assuming that you didn’t grow up a gamer or that, you know, this wasn’t something you were falling long time, three years ago. You’re sticking ball guy to suddenly you’re in the middle of it.
Chris Overholt: Yeah. Well, a couple of things I would say about that, first of all, I’m not even sure today that by anybody’s standards, I qualify as a gamer. If it means, do you have a controller in your hand once or twice? Every few weeks, yes. But beyond that, I’m not even sure that I’m qualifying in those ways, but yeah, and I didn’t grow up thinking about gaming.
In fact, my kids liked to tease me a little bit about the fact that I was always, especially when we lived in Florida, I was always pushing them outside and to the sporting events that they were involved with and trying to deflect them away from gaming in those days. And now they just love to come and be involved in all the events that we are engaged with.
[00:05:00] Like many things in life, you just kind of immerse yourself into them. And I wouldn’t profess to be an expert in what we’re doing, but I guess I’m a voice to at least some of what’s developing around me and what’s developing for our company. And I’ve learned that in a number of ways by having to do initially just some research to understand the industry and the publishers that we were engaged with and contractually partnered with, I’ve learned by talking to our players and to some fans about, you know, and understanding their passion.
Adam on our team, who’s our chief strategy officer has been a passionate gamer for most of his adult life. And Adam’s one of those guys that when he throws himself into something, he wants to be the expert in, he is our expert, I would say you know, inside of Overactive Media.
And so, he’s been a big part of my education, not only in the gaming space but in the investor space. And he’s never run well, I shouldn’t say that he ran a public company, I think at one point a small one, but you know, even my education around that notion. So, you’re only as strong as the people around you as you [00:06:00] and I’ve talked about in, in other conversations.
And I think I’ve benefited from players and coaches and Adam and others on our team as part of my education. And then the rest of it is, you just get to a place where you’re talking your business every day, you’re talking about what you’re building and how you’re growing it. And so, at some level, when you at least become a relative expert on your own practice.
AJ Maestas: Right, right. Well, now I’ve heard you say that OEM is a media company for the 21st century, rather than an e-sports company or a gaming company. Can you expand on that?
Chris Overholt: Yeah. And again, it’s evolving still and every day, every week, I suppose, but we set out to initially build what we thought could be termed a 21st century sports, media, and entertainment company for a new generation of fans.
You know, as a matter of explaining that longer sentence for marketing partners and to some degree for investors, we started explaining it in the context of think of us as a new Madison Square Garden or in this city or country, a modern expression of Maple Leaf Sports and entertainment for generation of fans. [00:07:00]
Frankly think differently about how they define their media choices, how they think about sport, and you know, many of the Gen Z’s and soon the gen alphas, and the trailing millennials, aren’t inclined to watch three hours of Ohio state football like I did in the Rose Bowl or two weekends ago or aren’t inclined to sit down for two and a half hours and watch a hockey game from tip to tip.
But they are inclined to watch a call of duty match or league of legends match. They are inclined to be streaming their favorite influencer on Twitch while they’re texting back and forth on whatever platform they choose on their mobile. It’s a generation that’s shifted and we’re compelled by the reach to that audience and what they represent to brands and consumers and investors.
And so, we’ve been building a company and a strategy out around reaching authentically and connecting with authentically that audience. It’s easiest to explain to, especially those of my generation. It’s easier to explain it to them in terms that make sense to them today. So that’s why we’ve [00:08:00] often used the Madison Square Garden or Maple Leaf Sports reference.
But again, it’s changing and evolving every day. The way we think about our opportunities and our fit to market is changing every day. And it’s mostly driven out of this generational shift that I’m pointing
AJ Maestas: I know I could nerd out on data forever, but, but it is undeniable. You know, the direction that people’s time is going, where leisure time.
You know, this stuff is just destroying stick and ball sports for leisure time. We’ve done some pretty cool work with Twitch over the years. I don’t think most people get visibility into their numbers, but when they do give a teaser, it’s pretty shocking. You know, how much time is being spent at each user session?
What kind of content is being watched? A lot of the companies that are having announcing these really big, exciting deals are kind of using their athletes as influencers, and it’s about like content creation, and social media. Is that where you’re going, what is our active media going to look like in, let’s say five in 10 years.
Chris Overholt: Yeah. I certainly don’t think it’ll take that long, but I hope it doesn’t, but the way we think about our businesses, again, sports, media, and entertainment. And so just to take those one at a time, the sports [00:09:00] investments that we’ve made are in these franchises. Which we think are the biggest, most important, most notable e-sport leagues in the world.
They are Call of Duty, Overwatch, and League of Legends. We play in the European league of legends under our mad lines brand. And we’ve also started a league with other team-based organizations, Cloud9, TSM, Dignitas. We started league called Flashpoint the place counters. And that’s actually the first team-owned league that exists in the professional sports scene.
So, the way we think about it is again, drawing an analogy to Madison Square Garden and our friend, Dave Hopkinson, and all of those over there. Our franchise holdings are our teams, as I’ve just described to our call of duty team is our NBA team. Our Overwatch team is our NHL team. Our League of Legends is our NFL team.
The reason I speak of them in those ways is because those are franchises that we paid dearly for that we have perpetual rights to and have the ability to monetize in all the same ways that traditional sports franchises can. So, we can sell [00:10:00] sponsorships and do licensing agreements and create content for ourselves that we can market and sell all of those same measures and opportunities as they exist for the Toronto Raptors, the New York Knicks exist for our teams as well.
And maybe as importantly to that business model in these leagues, in particular, these franchise leagues, we get to share the revenue that the leagues produced at the top level. So, when the call of duty league does a big marketing partnership deal, or when the Overwatch league announces a new broadcast media rights deal on platforms like Twitch or YouTube, we get pro-rata our share as franchise holders in those leads, that’s a very different business model than the notion of owning an e-sport team that plays for prize money and tournaments on the weekend.
That’s not our business, we’re not in the business. You know, that’s the equivalent of betting a horse for a living or playing poker, right?
AJ Maestas: Running a NASCAR team
Chris Overholt: Yeah, I suppose, where you don’t get to share in the enterprise value of these leagues as they grow. Again, we looked in on those leagues and said, why does that make sense to us?
Well, it [00:11:00] makes sense to us because that’s a traditional sports model that we can see as a sustainable model. And more than that, we think that’s the only sustainable e-sport model that exists in the world today. So that’s our sports platform as it exists today. Our future could consider us involved in traditional sports too, as long as it’s relevant to today’s generation of fans.
So, we’ve looked at some professional or traditional sports holdings that might make sense to this generation. And we haven’t landed on anything yet, but we’ve certainly considered it. On the entertainment side, as you know, we’re getting ready to build a venue, 7,000-seat performance venue.
That’s been a gap in this market for most of my adult life. And as we’ve watched maple leaf sports kick the tires on this idea. We’ve watched Tim Lee Wiki was quite focused on it when he was here, but again, this is now the fourth largest market in North America. Live nation tells us that it’s the fifth, most relevant global market to music and entertainment that they are invested in and do [00:12:00] business in.
And yet there’s no, there’s no secondary venue to the arena that the Leafs and Raptors can flick out a hundred nights a year. So that didn’t make any sense to us. We said to ourselves, as partners in the business, we should want to have a home for our franchise teams in our homes. And so, you know, how do we land this plane?
How do we figure out how to build or address that market gap that exists around music and entertainment, and also create a convenient home for our teams? And so, our solution to that is a 7,000-seat performance venue in the city of Toronto that we think from the very first moment we opened the doors will allow us to compete, head-to-head with our friends down the street for the top music and entertainment acts that land to the market.
And we’re really excited about that. That’s an incredibly bold step for a company that’s only three years. I got to give credit to our principal investors and shareholders that are with us on this journey. And we’re really excited about that step, that you know, that that will represent not just for us in the music and entertainment business, but our relationships in that industry, what it’s going to [00:13:00] mean for our first-party data strategy.
We want to build a venue that becomes the home for today’s generation of fans. You know, I’m not sure that, you know, as much as I love that venue and I think they’ve done an exquisite job of keeping it quite relevant and modern and polished and contemporary. I’m not sure that today’s generation of fans feel like the Scotiabank arena is really for them.
It’s the place that they go to consume music and entertainment. Sometimes it’s the place that they go to consume e-sport today. But in the future, I’d like to think that we could give them a new home and a new reason to be excited about those industries.
AJ Maestas: You’re going to get some phone calls about that one.
Chris Overholt: Well, they’re all our friends down there and, but you know what we love competing. And then the third platform for us is what I’ll call media and I think related services. And we’re just really getting to that again, we’re only three years old, so it’s not surprising that we haven’t been able to do everything.
The media space is really interesting to us because I think [00:14:00] it’s the third leg of the stool that’s necessary to us being the complete service provider to the market. So, we’ve got products already existing as these teams do in the same way that Maple Leaf Sports has products in the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, and TFC, we’re heading toward again, a great delivery mechanism and data capture opportunity for us in the entertainment space.
But what we can’t deliver today, but soon we’ll be able to, is an integrated media solution on those platforms that our generation of fans spends time on. And again, there’s a shift going on here that just about every CMO in the world is wrestling with. And we think done properly.
We can be a single destination for that solution for them. So, we’re pretty excited about the road that we’re on 20 twos got to be a big year for us in the context of finishing the play on that media side. But it’s exciting times.
AJ Maestas: Well, I like that. That’s good. It makes me happy. I think you don’t have an investor and full disclosure.
We’re working together on this stuff. I consider this arena, you know, pretty meaningful as in the potential [00:15:00] to be the most successful economic story in e-sports as far as facilities go and you already have unbelievable partners, right? Do you have any Anheuser Busch and craft, and I see RedBull in your game center behind you?
You’ve got a blue-chip roster already, but there’s no question what you’re saying is true. Right? This is something that we are having a constant conversation with on our brand client side, they’re nervous, they’re uncomfortable. And they don’t know how to invest or take an ownership position or how to break through the clutter, but they know they’re supposed to be there.
They can clearly see this is where the puck is going, and they want to skate there.
Chris Overholt: So now that’s right. And, and you know, it’s not an enviable position to be in today, right? The statistics that I’ve seen, I’m sure you’ve seen them too, is that the average lifespan of a Chief Marketing Officer is like something less than three years in the first case.
So, when I was growing up in the industry years ago, I had a cup of coffee in the tech space, and I was selling hardware for a company called digital equipment of Canada. And we were always competing with, with HP and with IBM. And you know, the saying in those days, not just in our industry, but generally in business was nobody gets fired for buying big blue. [00:16:00]
You know, nobody gets fired for buying IBM. You know, if you’re a chief marketing officer, you’re looking at all these shifts, you’re looking at the purchase habits of an entire generation or two generations of consumers are changing. You know, we were on the phone with friends of ours in the industry today, and we were talking about this huge level of distrust that exists for this generation of fans at the top.
This hyper fragmented media and this migration from traditional media to these new platforms. But, again, nobody’s totally sure about the connection that comes with it and how to quantify. It just goes on and on. So period, if you’re a chief marketing officer trying to not only identify the shifts, but how your product and brand fit to those shifts and, you know, all the while concerned that you might be betting your career on something.
I mean, it’s not an easy discussion for Tyler Keenan on our team or Amy or Alison who are out in the market, but man, they’re doing a heck of a job. And, you know, back to where we started this conversation, I think it’s really interesting to [00:17:00] see Tyler, Alison, Amy and the others on our corporate partnership team.
And again, you’re witness to it firsthand. What they’re doing in a very sophisticated way is telling the story of Overactive Media and broadly the industry around new sports and games. Telling that story and delivering results in a way, no different than our friends down the street are selling the Raptors and the Maple Leafs into this market.
Or our friends in New York are selling the Knicks or the Rangers. We brought that kind of seasoned and strategic perspective to our business. And I think it’s. Tyler really deserves a lot of credit. He’s he and Amy and the team have done a very nice job establishing ourselves here in Canada and primarily over in European, Spain in large part because of the approach that they take, you know, it’s very much how are we going to help our clients?
Problems, how are we going to fit into their strategic plan? How are we going to make the uncomfortable, comfortable for those Chief Marketing Officers who are worried about making a big mistake and against a big bet? [00:18:00] And I think that’s been some of the reason that Tyler and the team have been as successful as they had been that team’s going to difference-maker for us in every way.
AJ Maestas: And then that doesn’t even count the arena. Right. I mean, you know.
Chris Overholt: yeah, we’re not there yet.
AJ Maestas: Yeah. I am super impressed. I mean, working with Tyler has been exceptional and the deals are unbelievable, and it goes to show everybody. A bunch of people are pedaling. E-sports deals out there, but quality sales, right?
With a solution selling, you know, quality effort yields, these incredible deals, which are justifiable, in my opinion, I guess I’m biased, you know? Cause we like to pretend like we have some part of the success you’re all experiencing, but the truth is, is that that’s unbelievable salesmanship to get people comfortable with this unknown new entity.
And yes, this may be the future, but those aren’t the kind of deals you’re seeing out there very often, any way you look at it and I won’t rattle the numbers off, cause I know you know them too well, but for people listening, these people are early adopters in tech. Obviously, that goes without saying, but you think of things like crypto and these deregulated, you know, democratized environments, if you think about web 3.0 or [00:19:00] the metaverse or whatever that you want to call that direction.
Right? This is a gateway, right? And these are the people that are taking us. They’re such an attractive audience, right. And this is where they’re putting their leisure time and the next generation, you’re just going to miss it. In fact, I’d actually like to ask you a question on that, on that front. I know you’re talking to some traditional sports and then a lot of the folks that, you know, we know in our family here in the world that you and I spent most of our careers.
Aren’t asking themselves, what is this? How do I get there? Where do I go? You know, the average sponsorship deal with the teams at best 10% digital, right? I mean, they are grossly underselling or locked out of these rights and benefits. Google and Facebook are getting, you know, sort of like 90 it’s estimated about 95% plus of digital sales growth year over year, three or four years in a row now.
So, sports which dominated leisure time, interest, passion, right audience, and all those traditional media mediums is not in the game here, basically locked out of this game right now. I don’t know. I mean, if you have advice for those people who are listening or what do they do, I know I’m making you compete with yourself here, [00:20:00] but what do they do so that they can sell what your team is selling, right.
Which is the future, because, I mean, how do they suddenly turn their inventory to 50% or more digital? Because that’s kind of what they need right now. Right? That’s where the media buying world is their digital past television.
Chris Overholt: So, I don’t know the answer and it’s certainly not for me to give advice, I suppose to those that have been so successful in the traditional sports space, you know, it’s interesting, it’s less about the solutions.
If I were in any of those shoes today, if I was working in any of the leagues that I’ve worked in prior to landing here at OverActive Media, I think my biggest concern, understanding the e-sports and gaming space broadly. Not only how do I reach them, but even if I can figure out a way to reach them, how do I do it in a fashion that makes sense to this generation?
Because if you don’t do it, if you’re not smart about it, if you’re not sensitive to the way this generation thinks about it, you’re just as likely to get locked out by virtue of having landed in that conversation in a way that doesn’t make sense to them. It’s not authentic.
They feel [00:21:00] like you’re an interloper and not there to stay right. Is difficult. I think, to imagine a way in, and that’s why we, we made the investments in the teams that we did because it gave us products to lean on a story, to tell at an, an authentic connection to point to for our partners. Our brands, you know, you mentioned very generously that some of the partner deals we’ve got. Bell can land authentically in the connection, of course, by virtue of the work that they do with their fiber technology, and soon their 5g.
That’s a little easier to understand if you’re an e-sports gaming fan. If you’re a TD Bank, then you’re racking your brain trying to figure out how you’re going to make sense to this generation. And the reason TD is invested in OverActive Media is in large part because we can land them there safely because they can show up and be talking to our, audience.
And the audience gives them the credit that they deserve because they’re supporting the teams that, the audience believes in and likes to cheer for and support. Right. It’s a safe place to land. If you’re [00:22:00] a pro sports team, and I don’t know, I’ve got friends all the country like you do, and, and if you’re not invested in e-sports, I think you’re struggling right now to figure it out.
And I’ve talked to some of our friends about exactly that if you don’t own an e-sports or gaming or influencer position, Around your brand. If it doesn’t extend beyond your basketball team, your hockey team, or your football team, then you’re speaking to a relatively narrow percentage of that audience.
Most of them are my age or older right now. And that’s a problem. That’s a problem that, you know, I’m not signaling the demise of the NFL or any of the major leagues, but it was funny, I was watching the Pittsburgh Steelers game. I think it was yesterday and they were promoting in advance the Nickelodeon wildcard game.
Did you happen to see that? And, and that’s today, at least that’s largely the NFL’s answer for appealing to the parents ethically the next generation of fans, if that’s it, that’s a fairly narrow perspective.
AJ Maestas: Yeah. Well, I know you’re trying to be kind to all [00:23:00] our mutual friends out there, but there is a pathway to find.
I mean, you know, this is something we have studied for one of the big four sports leagues, not so long ago. And there was two problems, actually one winning leisure time and share of time with those folks that have a much lower rate. And the second one is that they’re dropping off mid, you know, there was this history where someone would follow this curve of fandom, start trading, baseball cards, find your favorite team, whatever it is, let’s say it plateaus your late twenties and slow decline the rest of your life. People are jumping off that traditional curve. And so, it is a problem actually. And again, again, the leagues aren’t going to go bankrupt, but it’s one of those things where, you know, it’s not a problem until it is, right. Like, it’s not hard to read the tea leaves and see right now what’s going on with GEN Z and GEN alpha, by the way, which I don’t think anybody really talks much about now but coming quick on their heels.
Yeah, absolutely. We’re defining generations in shorter numbers of years now, which actually makes sense based on behavior. What would you do if you’re those leagues? And I don’t mean to belabor the point, but you’ve been there that you spend the majority of your career there. [00:24:00] If you were there, is there an action you would take to be authentic to those generations?
They don’t have the digital rights to sell, you know, the league deal in the NFL example with Nickelodeon, they’re willing to pay for those rights. Right. But realistically it’s short-form and social, digital mobile. Is there an action you will take?
Chris Overholt: I don’t know that there are one or two macro solutions, but I think there are some isolated things you could be thinking about.
And similarly, I’ll say it the other way. I think e-sports needs to be thinking more like traditional sport in some regard as well. And we can touch on that in a minute, but the broadcast is probably the one that I think of first when I think about the innovation opportunities for traditional sport and we’re starting to see it right.
I mean, the NFL deal with Amazon is I think a step in that direction. That platform is going to give them the ability to do a bunch of things that they can’t do on linear television, whether that be fan engagement. One of the most compelling things for my 82-year-old father is watching call of duty with me last summer, he doesn’t understand a [00:25:00] thing that is happening. But he understands what’s happening on the screen in the adjacent screen, which is the fans talking to each other about their favorite players. The favorite move that happened in the game, that’s cheering for their team in real-time. And in this kind of combative text, almost, I think there are elements of fan engagement on platforms like Amazon will afford the NFL.
And I think the NHL did an over-the-top deal as well. I think you’ll see innovations around content commerce within the broadcast as well. That again, those platforms will open up opportunities for these are all things that exist and could exist today for e-sports. So, I think some of what we’re seeing is a migration of traditional sport logically to over-the-top platforms.
But it might be for reasons beyond what we just intuitively think because it’s another avenue for naming rights or for media rights dollars, of course. But the flexibility that those digital platforms are going to provide to those traditional sports leagues, I think is going to be real. And eventually, I think the return on that will be measured in all sorts of [00:26:00] different revenue streams, not just the right deals alone.
On the e-sports side in terms of what they can take from a traditional sport. You know, there’s a lot there, but nothing beats the live event experience. And we’re seeing more of that in you know, the sports live event experience. If you haven’t seen it, if you’re watching or listening to this podcast and you have not seen a live e-sports event, then you don’t yet truly understand the power of e-sports and the very passionate and authentic connection that those fans enjoy around these games and these players and these leagues.
It’s really something, but what they haven’t yet mastered other than in the far reaches of Asia, they haven’t mastered scale yet.
So, every day I think about what it will mean to, you know, for us to open the door on 7,000 seats and watch us fill that place full of call of duty fans or full of Overwatch fans for our trauma defiant. And I worry a little bit that it’s not. Because I really believe that we’re building a [00:27:00] home that will, again, it’s not meant to be first and foremost in e-sports venue.
It’s meant to be a music and arts and entertainment performance venue, where we can play host the biggest acts in the world and the convenient home for our teams. But at 7,000 seats, I really believe it’s not going to be big enough, ultimately, and I worry about that a little bit.
AJ Maestas: You’ll be calling your MLSE friends, right?
For. I’m trying to get myself educated on it. There’s no doubt. You’ve met Ron Lee on our team, right. He actually competed and he’s been an athlete, you know, the other world, the stick and ball world. And we’ve got our nice little photo with him holding the check from when he was actually a gamer.
I mean, he still is, I guess I’m sold just some videos just from, from secondhand education. You know what I mean? On the rock us atmosphere and that legitimate passion. Well, you know this, but I’m sharing for the people listening more than you. There’s as defined as with a controller in your hand, twice a week or more the considering that a participant, there are [00:28:00] 2.4 billion gamers, I guess, divine on here on planet earth and the 170 million people are considered e-sports fans.
That’s I don’t know, let’s call it like 8% of that number. This is the thing that occurs in the mature sports, right? There are more fans than people who are actual active participants. There’s nothing but an open highway in front of us, right. You’re describing the passion that you are, and you say, well, how do these things work?
If this is where leisure time is going, which it is then? Wow.
Chris Overholt: Yeah, no, actually it’s a perfect segue in a couple of ways. Like when I was on that team as you know and may play sports when we were building out the Raptors business and whether it was Michael Downy, or Bob hunter or Richard Petty or Dave Hopkinson, we spent all that time thinking about how do we grow basketball participation in Canada, right.
And what’s necessary to ultimately have successful broadcast numbers, partnerships that can scale because there are meaningful numbers of fans around the brand and the team. Well, you got to educate around the game. And of course, it follows that if they play [00:29:00] the game or at least if we can get their kids playing the game.
That there’ll be more engaged and inclined to watch and buy merchandise and ultimately tickets, the reverse is true here. Right? They’re already playing. And so the challenge now is to draw them out of being casual fans of gamers, but controllers in their hands two times. However, that statistic defines itself and get them into watching the broadcast and consuming, but they’re already there.
They always have, they already have a declared predilection for it. That’s amazing. And that’s a marketer’s dream. You know, it used to be awareness, trial conversion. Well, they’re already converted now we just need to reverse engineer the whole thing. So, I think it’s an amazing opportunity that is so far from being defined.
You know, there’s been a lot of discussion around businesses like ours and others that have been around, you know, that are more endemic to the space than we are a Hundred Thieves, Faze Clan, in Europe, Fanatic, G2. These are all endemic. You know what I would [00:30:00] call it, endemic esports organizations, you know, fanatics been around, I think 14, or they’re heading into their 15th year.
This is something that’s been waiting to arrive for more than a decade. And it’s relatively a new conversation to North America. Man to a very passionate, albeit relatively small group in Europe and certainly in Asia, this has been a thing for a long time. So, I really think we might be in the bottom of the first inning here.
AJ Maestas: Well, I don’t think that’s crazy. I think it’s infant, like in its maturity stage. I mean the business revenues are still mostly just sponsorship and you know, it doesn’t have that cachet yet. I don’t think that’s crazy to say at all. At the thought leader summit, the SPJ thought leader summit this summer, there was a Round Robin type question, you know, like what’s big in the future or something like that.
I can’t remember. It was being challenged in some way in the room was near-unanimous. Right. They’re like, yeah, it’s real. I mean, you dig in a little bit and no matter how you might be, it’s clear, you can’t deny where it’s going. I’m not sure if you saw this, [00:31:00] the recent news would take two interactive required Zynga and a $12.7 billion deal, by the way.
So, because the people buying like the farm bill and words with friends and stuff like that. Yeah. No doubt real money. And I think we know the publishers are making the money right now, but again, it’s not hard to see the future. What do you think? As far as mobile games like this, where are we going?
I know it’s big in Asia, but it’s a mobile-first world, right? And we just, our holiday gift, by the way, at Navigate, one of our holiday gifts was Oculus. Everyone got glasses, so we’re going to go to meetings in the metaverse and all that kind of stuff. And it feels like it feels like mobile AR VR, right?
Like this is where it’s going. I don’t know if you have an opinion or if you’re willing to weigh in on it.
Chris Overholt: Yeah. I don’t think there’s any doubt that mobile gaming is going to be a huge, huge part of all of this, how it manifests itself in the context of professional E-sports I think is still to be answered in the same way that broadly e-sport is still to be answered, but I very definitely think it’s part of it.
Again, fundamental [00:32:00] to our business model are these contractual relationships that we have with the biggest publishers in the world, Activision Blizzard, and Riot Games. And they’ve all made mobile a huge part of their strategy. All their significant games will be ported to mobile, if they’re not there already, the very week that call of duty was launched as a mobile game there were a hundred million downloads within four days. Like it’s very much part of the scene. And as you point out, not everybody can afford a console or a PC rig, of course, but virtually, I’m overstating it, but only slightly. I mean, the reach of mobile technology in the world today is pretty endemic.
And so, you can imagine that the reach to gaming and, and the likes of, of mobile leisure time technology, is certainly going to be a big thing. The other thing. And it’s interesting, that you talk about that path to fandom. I think we’re starting to see the emergence of what, you know, my friend Paul Foster would refer to as active e-sports and we’re starting to see more [00:33:00] discussion certainly in the last six months.
But you know, we’ve been watching this space for more than a year, now. The idea of virtual meets physical and, technologies like Oculus evolving into gameplay in a physical sense. And there’s one company out of Montreal that I’m quite close with and we talk regularly, and Arcadia games is really a glimpse of the future where e-sports and physical sport can come together where the virtual can meet the physical.
And where I think we’ll start to see some of those concerns about gaming as a sedentary exercise, I think the act of the sports and the virtual experience and augmented reality is going to be an interesting conversation in the next few years about how it helps to get kids active, ironically, and I think what Chris Olympo and the team at Arcadia are doing a Montreal is very interesting.
AJ Maestas: Yeah, I’ll be watching. I’ll be learning. I’ll probably be catching up is what I’ll really realistically be doing. One more big business question. You know, I [00:34:00] know we’ve been a little bit hard on stick and ball and what they own as far as their slice in the future and digital and mobile and all that kind of stuff.
But they’re signing these giant crypto and blockchain deals left and right. And gambling and the legalization is leading to great deals. Great fit. There’s no doubt. That’s where the larger sort of television audience exists today. Well, domestically that is here for those of us in North America, but the numbers are bigger.
And the way that these audiences skewing toward these things, let’s say the 15% of the population that owns some form of a cryptocurrency. They’re virtually all gamers, right? The same thing with anybody involved with blockchain, the same thing with gambling. We just, we’re putting out a gaming study this month.
And, and some further stuff beyond what we did the prior year, the e-sports is number one, as far as wagers per year permit, you know, in sports. So, when is that going to show up in a big way? And when you look at your global numbers, I mean, your business is global. So, you’re based in Toronto, Canada, but your teams compete globally.
Why are those deals not there? It seems so obvious to me.
Chris Overholt: Yeah, well some of those [00:35:00] deals have been done in the crypto space if that’s what you’re talking about or the gambling space?
AJ Maestas: Gambling and Crypto, I mean, where are the giant deals? I mean, you have a giant audience, and you have an audience that skews far more toward the target of those businesses.
Chris Overholt: Yeah. So, first, there have been a couple done. I think TSM announced a big deal as you’re probably aware earlier last year, I think it was purported to be in the neighborhood of 200 million. If I’m not mistaken over 10 years, I think it was in that range. Fanatic in Europe, I think also announced a crypto deal as well.
Again, two big e-sport organizations that are endemic and have generational followings. Now I think it could be said over 10 or 15 years. So, it’s not surprising that the first big deals in that space would get done with some of the organizations that have had big blocks and fans and following, for now, more than a decade, the rest I think will come.
And it’s actually, again, you probably know a lot more about this market than I do, but just based on the work that we’re doing that Tyler’s doing with your support, I think it’s starting to [00:36:00] reveal itself and we’re seeing two opportunities. One in the application space, of course, as they’re all looking for real-time opportunities to connect with fans in a way that’s relevant and, and also on the exchange.
Yeah, I do think you’re going to see a lot more crypto deals get done in the e-sports space for all the reasons you’re pointing to. On the gambling side, I think the rest of your statistic does not only do they bet on a higher average basis, but they actually extend that betting behavior into traditional sports as well.
It’s an indication of just how absolutely passionate they are once they’re engaged. It really follows. I think we’ll see the gambling space. I think that’ll be more of a regional development in the U S you guys are a little bit ahead of us up here because you’re already legalized in many of the states. And so, are you starting to see investments on the part of the gambling industry on mass and in mass media to reach right?
We’re not there yet. That legislation is expected in Q2. Or actually later in Q1 here. And so, we think the follow-on an opportunity in the gaming industry will be again, correspondingly in the four to [00:37:00] six months after.
Tyler certainly had a bunch of meetings. I think we’re in a place where we should be well-positioned when the time comes, but those two categories are big for us this year and for our industry generally.
And I think your instincts are right. I think you’ll see a lot of deals get done in those two areas.
AJ Maestas: I only think of you having your businesses gain global. So not necessarily, it doesn’t have to be just Canadian assets. And I think these are the people who are going to build and influence and drive, you know, web 3.0, and all this stuff, that’s occupying all the headlines right now. It’s weird to me that you wouldn’t just start with this audience on a relative basis. Stick and ball sports are getting a lion’s share of these dollars right now. And, and, you know, we work with a few of these mobile gaming companies that are backed by traditional people that do the math right in the casino business.
They could do the math on the conversion of a fan. They know the lifetime customer value. So, it’s just weird to me. It’s weird. I mean, it’s perfectly measurable, you exactly know, right. So, if they were doing deals in the e-sports world, so it’s just funny [00:38:00] to me. That’s all.
Chris Overholt: Yeah, no, I think you’re, I think you’re dead. Right. But I think you’re going to see a proliferation of deals here, maybe even in the first six months of the year. My sense is that there was a lot, like, it only really started to gather up momentum in the last six months. And so, there were a couple of deals that got across the finish line, but I think you’re going to see a proliferation in our space from the first six months.
AJ Maestas: So, feel free to share breaking news here.
Chris Overholt: When you lead a public company to go, you don’t get to do that anymore. You get to break your own news.
AJ Maestas: And we get to watch your stock price, which we just checked in together before we jumped on the fun stuff. I’ve got a couple of rapid-fire questions for you if you don’t mind.
Chris Overholt: Yeah. Sure. Just, just trying to get to know you better and share you with the rest of the world. All right. Favorite place to travel.
I had the fortunate opportunity involved with the Olympic committee to see quite a bit of Europe, but I’m a long way from being done. But I do enjoy Europe and I particularly enjoy London.
I think it’s my favorite city in the world. So, I would say Europe and London and anywhere in the mountains.
AJ Maestas: Still some loyalty to the queen, I see.
Chris Overholt: Yeah, that’s right. That’s [00:39:00] right.
AJ Maestas: And anywhere in the mountains, you’re doing Denali this summer. Is that still the plan with COVID?
Chris Overholt: Yeah, that’s the plan still training. In fact, I’m going right from this discussion to, to the gym, but yeah, getting ready for a big climb in June and a little bit of training out in your old stomping ground in Seattle and going out to Reneer in March for eight days of Denali prep, as they say.
AJ Maestas: Nice, beautiful mountain. Beautiful place. Don’t forget though. My real old stomping grounds is Denali. In my hometown In Alaska of course, or McKinley is a lot of people still notice. So, if you could magically enter the world of any one video game, what would you choose?
Chris Overholt: Yeah, this was a tough one.
Cause I have a passion for call of duty. I love watching that game play at a competitive level, but that seems dangerous. So, I equally love the character development and the depth of the industry calls it and blizzard calls it a Activision blizzard calls it Pauline. But I love the character development and the backstory that they do around all the, all the heroes in [00:40:00] Overwatch.
And so, I think the exercise of just dropping yourself into the middle of that game and getting to know all the heroes and learn of all their backstories again, for those who haven’t seen. It’s worth the trip around YouTube to just see the way they launch characters into the game and the storytelling that they do as a matter of positioning them and giving them relevance.
It’s really cool. So, I think Overwatch would be fun to get to know all those heroes.
AJ Maestas: That is cool. Yeah. Some real storytelling, some real, I like that. That’s cool. I actually didn’t know that or not as well as I should. What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Chris Overholt: Well, someone of my age and stage, you can imagine I’ve had a lot of great advice from a lot of really, really smart people.
But I, you know, again, I’ve had the real fortunate opportunity to work for some really incredible leaders. Joe Bailey in Miami, Richard Petty here in Toronto to many dimensions. But the advice actually that I got in my very first job in the first six months of that job, I worked for almost seven years in the insurance business.
And [00:41:00] it’s funny again, you’ll indulge me for a second. That industry. In those days, at least traded on the ability to recruit young people, train them up properly, and then basically develop them as career professionals so that they would recruit to strong natural markets. And then you would, the idea would be as a young person, you’d go on.
Recruit your generation and then grow with them over time, kind of lifecycle marketing. And so, there was a lot of time I’ve worked for a company called London life up here, and there was a lot of time spent training and developing me as a professional salesperson. And we used to have these conferences that were hosted here routinely every year in Ontario.
And the advice that I got was to the whole room by a speaker that had been successful in the industry and the advice. Change is inevitable growth is optional and I’ve never forgotten that. I think that was like my first six weeks in the insurance business. So, the first six weeks of my career in 1989 and a guy by the name of [00:42:00] Etherington, that family is very successful in the insurance business up here in Canada.
And today we do business with the other tens here at OverActive Media and that family and those two brothers that built that business are friends to me. One in particular, but yeah, change is inevitable. Growth is optional, and I’ve always tried to keep that in mind, every time I’m presented with the chance to do something new or to switch teams or companies or industries, I’ve been afforded a lot of those opportunities.
And you have to consciously decide to take that on. You have to consciously decide that you’re going to be taking it on with growth in mind. And I think that was why I was so excited to join OAM and the partner group here and to get started and building this company because it was going to be a growth opportunity for me at that time at the age of 55.
And that’s pretty amazing.
AJ Maestas: I think that’s pretty cool. I couldn’t agree more by the way that change is inevitable, and I don’t see any other path than investing in growth. So good for you. I’m really impressed. I mean, again, I know we’ve mentioned Paul Foster three times now, but he’s the head of the [00:43:00] global e-sports Federation.
He is a personality to know in this world. And I think he considers you a Titan of industry of what you want to a few years ago. So, you did that, you thrived
Chris Overholt: at least I convinced Paul.
AJ Maestas: At least you got him your yes.
You have him as an absolute advocate. What is something you do to relax or recharge? Because this is a lot, you’ve been in a three-year span.
Chris Overholt: I must confess to really enjoying alone time. It’s a very selfish thing to say, and to actually act upon, but it’s true. I think it’s part of the reason I enjoy climbing as much as I do, frankly, is because it gives me time with myself. I mean, it’s true for you and your business as well, AJ. I mean, you need to be on all the time, whether you’re speaking to the people that you work with and for every day, or whether you’re talking to investors in our case or, or marketing partners or legal officials, I mean, you need to be on all the time. And if you’re selling, you’ve got to have an energy level, always to do that successfully and on a sustained basis.
I’ve always [00:44:00] tried to pride myself on that kind of sustained energy and effort that I make in my business every day. And it requires it when I’m not doing it that I choose to be quiet. And as I’ve gotten older, I tend to covet that time more than anything. And I coveted a lot in the mountains because it’s one of the few places where you can go, and people just know you have to switch off because you’ve got to focus to be safe.
Because most times you can’t get cell service anywhere. So, I suppose you could say that climbing is one way that I relaxed in the training for that climb is another way that I get time to myself. But it’s not my most redeeming quality because it demands that I have time by myself, but it’s certainly necessary.
AJ Maestas: I don’t know if you should beat yourself up on that, right?
The introvert inside of your needs, that to reenergize, you know what I mean, to the best self, you know, your best self to work. I’m, I’m not summiting mountains on this or not big ones. You know, I’m a hiker, not, I’m certainly not going to attempt an ally, but it’s pretty meaningful time for me every Saturday I go on a long hike, and I think it’s pretty valuable to be outside in nature, off your phone.
Then turn and pedal [00:45:00] that Monday through Friday. That’s all right, though. Well, I’m super grateful. You joined Chris. It really means a lot. It’s an inspiration to see you reinvent yourself. You could have done anything you wanted to in the sports world and to put yourself into this. And I think it’s a smart bet.
The more I learn, the more we get to work with you all, the more clear it is that this is the future. You were ahead of the curve, in my opinion. And there’s a rare set of skills that you bring to the table in this world. And that’s, I honestly think the reason OAM is having great success along with all your great people that you were kind of shooting credit with.
If anybody has questions out there or comments, please feel free to reach out to us. My email AJ@nvgt.com. You can also connect with us on my personal LinkedIn page or the Navigate LinkedIn page. Send questions for Chris he’ll follow up or other folks on his team. I know they’re generous in that way when they have downtime, but again, this is AJ Maestas with Navigate joined by Chris Overholt.
Thank you for joining us on Navigating Sports Business.
Chris Overholt: Thanks for having me, AJ. Great to [00:46:00] see you.