Comcast Spectacor and SK Telecom will announce the formation of a joint esports venture Monday at the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, Spain, the organizations told ESPN.
The new global entity, T1 Entertainment & Sports, will adopt the formidable branding of the South Korean telecom giant's League of Legends team, three-time World Champion SK Telecom T1. T1 Entertainment & Sports operations will be operated out of Philadelphia, Seoul and Los Angeles.
Comcast Spectacor, a Philadelphia-based subsidiary of the Comcast Corporation, owns the Overwatch League's Philadelphia Fusion, who reached the inaugural OWL grand finals at the Barclays Center last July. The Fusion will retain their branding and operate outside the T1 umbrella.
In addition to its existing presence in Overwatch, League of Legends, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Hearthstone, T1 plans to field competitors in Fortnite, Apex Legends and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, according to the organization. Company sources point to impressive viewership and engagement numbers for battle royale titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends -- the latter of which gained 25 million players in its first week of release -- as reasons for their inclusion. The decision to focus on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate rather than Melee was made along similar lines.
Plans for a partnership between the two telecommunications company have been in the works since October 2018, when representatives from Comcast Spectacor met with their counterparts from SK Telecom in Busan, South Korea, for the League of Legends World Championship.
Comcast Spectacor had long admired the prestige of the SK Telecom T1 brand and viewed South Korea favorably as the birthplace of modern esports. Additionally, owning an OWL franchise with stars like DPS Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok, tank Kim "SADO" Su-min and Choi "HOTBA" Hong-Jun (now of the Guangzhou Charge) introduced South Korean staples like Korean barbeque, K-pop, and Korean dramas to Western ownership.
The newfound familiarity helped bridge the cultural gap when finding a South Korean business partner, according to company sources.
SK Telecom, meanwhile, was looking to expand its presence outside of South Korea, where it is the country's largest mobile operator. According to a recent industry report from Newzoo, North America is expected maintain its status as the world's largest esports market, with anticipated esports revenues in excess of $400 million in 2019. Comcast Spectacor had similar ambitions for expansion, eager to increase their esports footprint to rival marquee organizations like Team Liquid and Cloud9. Together as T1, the two companies can now access international markets they otherwise would have had difficulty capturing apart.
But aside from market access, Comcast Spectacor found in SK Telecom a kindred spirit with regards to its esports philosophy. Companies sources say the two organizations recognize esports' importance among young people, how it resonates with them and what type of content they consume around the games. While concrete strategies are still being formulated, there's a sense that the kind of content T1 wants to pursue cannot be done within the confines of traditional sports.
With esports, there's a chance to break new ground.
The union with SK Telecom further underlines Comcast Specator's increasing investment in the developing esports ecosystem. Owners of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and landlords to the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center, Comcast Spectacor is excited by the reach and growth potential of esports.
According to company sources, Comcast Spectacor sees competitive gaming as a vehicle to build an international brand on the level of European football clubs like Manchester United. Even casual esports fans know about SK Telecom T1 mid laner Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok; what if that global notoriety extended to his team and into the mainstream consciousness?
That's the dream, and with the amount of pooled resources backing T1, it could become reality.