Activision Blizzard hires Fox Sports exec to head up esports division

BlizzCon and StarCraft II. Blizzard Entertainment

In yet another move that suggests esports is pushing into the mainstream, Activision Blizzard announced Wednesday morning that Fox Sports executive Pete Vlastelica will take over as president and CEO of the company's esports division next month.

Vlastelica, who was executive vice president of digital for Fox Sports, will be tasked with expanding Activision Blizzard's content platform, which includes Major League Gaming. The company acquired MLG, which runs pro leagues and streams live events, in December.

"It's been on my radar for a while," Vlastelica told ESPN.com. "But now seems like the right time. It's the first digital native sport not encumbered by the typical distribution issues of other sports, and what is being watched is already being streamed and has engagement on a massive scale."

MLG's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive championship in April set esports viewership records, including a record 1.6 million viewers watching at the same time.

Vlastelica, who will start Oct. 3, said his goal is to help simplify the sector to make it easier for those who watch sports to also watch esports. Some of that, he said, will require doing behind-the-scenes work to make rules across leagues and disciplines more clear.

"I like to fish where the fish are," said Steve Bornstein, former CEO of ESPN and the NFL Network, who joined Activision Blizzard as chairman of its esports division last year. "Esports is the next big thing, just like ESPN was 35 years ago and the NFL Network was 15 years ago. It's our responsibility to make it more professional, more accessible and more digestible."

The company has its own events for games that Activision Blizzard produces: Call of Duty, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone and StarCraft. Shares of the company's stock hit an all-time high this week.