Blog Post

Interview: Major League Gaming CEO Bromberg: Is Pro Gaming Really A Sport?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

imageMajor League Gaming (*MLG*) rides a fine line between technology, entertainment, and sports — if you consider teams of players duking it out over games like Halo 3 and Rainbow Six Vegas a sport. It holds its Pro Circuit tournaments in spaces like the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas and the Meadowlands; gamers can also stream the events at mlgpro.com, with some coverage through ESPN360. Founded in 2006, the New York-based company is the last professional gaming league standing, as DirecTV-backed rival Championship Gaming Series (CGS) folded last year. *MLG* has raised $42.5 million in funding from Oak Investment Partners and Ritchie Capital since its launch, including a $7.5 million round in January. But can it win over advertisers? Below, excerpts of my interview with CEO Matt Bromberg.

Professional gamers are in it for the love of the game and the glory — but also for the money. How much can they make? Top-10 competitors like Tom Taylor (aka Tsquared) earn somewhere in the six figures. Part of our job is about making them famous, but it’s also about making sure they’re making a good living.

More after the jump.

If you’re paying guys like Tsquared upwards of $100,000, how do you make money? And are you profitable? We’re going to break even this year. About 80 percent of our revenue comes from sponsorship and ad sales, the other 20 percent is from licensing, and the goal is to increase that percentage. We plan on launching several new MLG-branded products this year (video game accessories like headsets and controllers). We’re also going to start charging attendance at some events.

What do you say to people who argue competitive gaming isn’t a sport? Those people aren’t important to us. What’s important is that millions of fans follow it like it’s a sport, sponsors like P&G and Dr. Pepper think its a sport, and we get coverage on *ESPN*. People said the same thing about NASCAR, golf and other new sports to some extent.

How do you get brands to justify sponsoring video game competitions in the midst of this economy? Sports sponsorships have been impacted across the board, so it has been hard, but we got every sponsor we had last year to re-up this year. Where else are they going to reach more than 500,000 guys aged 13 to 24, and get their attention for nearly an hour? (Bromberg said last year’s championship match in Vegas netted over 530,000 unique streams, with viewers watching for an average of 51 minutes).

Does it matter that they’re streamed online and not broadcast on *ESPN* or G4? TV is not where this audience is, which is why G4 had to shift from just gaming programming and why CGS didn’t last. We did a show on G4 two years ago because the sponsors wouldn’t advertise if we didn’t have that presence. They understand that we don’t need it now; they get contact info, impressions and exposure through our live events and online.

How much money are they spending, and what kinds of metrics do you provide to justify their spend? We’ve got a mix of six- and seven-figure deals, and provide both qualitative and quantitative metrics. We’ve done some pre- and post-exposure awareness research, some lead generation, and some brands track direct sales.

2 Responses to “Interview: Major League Gaming CEO Bromberg: Is Pro Gaming Really A Sport?”

  1. actually its not that hard to become a professoinal gamer there is only one problem he has to choose one game and stick to it. I would recomend Halo 3 wich ahs the most media. but to become pro you need to go to events on the mlg circuit. then from there if he does good and gets allot of buzz a pro team might pick him up as a Free Agent.I would not advise him to try to become a pro gamer becuase if he never sticks to one game and becomes serius then he will never reach his goals srry for the grammar

  2. Mey Vidrine

    I have a son who will turn 16 in Sept. He has been playing what I term (idiot games) since he was 3 years old. (I've only called this "idiot games" the last 5 years since he has been playing because once he gets on, he is oblivious to anything else.) I initially let him play this because I felt it was good for his hand eye coordination, then it became a great tool for reading. In the beginning I would read to him what he needed to do to get to the next level – it was cute to watch him interact and get it, and then it got to the point where he wanted me to do that all the time, so I told him he had to learn how to read himself in order to play – so before he went to Pre-K he could read. Then when he was in 6th grade he actually took 2nd place in a typing competition the school had (he was beat by one of the girls by 1 letter) and I contribute that skill learned by playing video games. So as a parent, I am a big advocate because it is a great educational tool.

    Now, although he is very active in school and plays on the golf team, in his spare time he is always playing Wii (his favorite game is Mario Cart which he held several world records) or XBOX360 where he loves to play Halo 3 and other games. He started out playing runescape (which he played for at least 4 years) and that launched him in the world of cyberspace which has had him hooked. Now as a mom I get very aggrevated because I want him to spend more time outside – but I've also acknowledged the fact that he is very good when it comes to learning and mastering a game and therefore thought that instead of fighting it, look into an avenue for him to persue in Gaming. In researching this persuit, I found your article. I found it very enlightening, but still did not get the answer to my question as to HOW does someone go about becoming a professional gamer and do you have to be a certain age. Do you think you can get that questioned answered for me.

    Thank you,
    Mey Vidrine