Activision Blizzard has begun the sales process for creating a franchised, city-based Call of Duty esports league, setting the franchise price at $25 million per team, sources familiar with negotiations told ESPN.
In the past week, Activision Blizzard esports executive staff have held meetings with prospective buyers for the league, including existing Call of Duty professional teams and ownership groups of the Overwatch League, sources said. Activision Blizzard has asked potential buyers for a non-binding indication of interest within the next 14 days, according to sources. If interested, Overwatch League team owners have the first right of negotiation for their respective home market, as previously reported by ESPN.
The new geolocated franchise league is expected to start in 2020, the same year that Overwatch League teams aim to move to their home markets, as reported by ESPN in June. Plans for where these teams will play in the first season of the restructured Call of Duty league are to be determined.
In the current system, the Call of Duty World League Pro League takes place in Columbus, Ohio, at the MLG Arena. Activision Blizzard acquired Major League Gaming in early 2016 for a reported $46 million. Activision Blizzard has restructured internally to create Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues, a division that oversees all esports initiatives in its game titles, led by former Fox Sports executive vice president Pete Vlastelica.
Sixteen teams currently compete in the league, including team from North America and Europe. Relegation is part of the current league, but would be removed with the franchise restructuring. Activision Blizzard also hosts frequent open events across the United States, including one in Fort Worth, Texas, that begins on Friday.
Activision Blizzard confirmed reports that it intends to launch a city-based Call of Duty franchise league during an earnings call in February. Also during that call Activision announced it would lay off nearly 800 employees, ranging from esports, publishing and others across Activision, Blizzard, King and other of the conglomerate's studios.
This will be the second franchised league under Activision Blizzard, the first being the Overwatch League. Throughout 2017, the company sold 12 Overwatch League slots in the United States, Europe, China and South Korea at $20 million per franchise. Founding owners included New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Philadelphia Flyers parent company Comcast Spectacor.
After a successful first season, the Overwatch League sold eight expansion slots in 2018, adding two new American franchises in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., two Canadian franchises in Toronto and Vancouver, one in Paris, and three in China. New owners to the league include Vancouver Canucks parent company Aquilini Investment Group, telecommunications giant Cox Enterprises and Chinese livestreaming platform Huya.
Activision Blizzard did not respond to requests for comment.