Bilibili Esports has taken the place of Banana Culture as the new Chinese production partner for Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, sources told Pandaily. Bilibili Esports will also co-host the 2020 Overwatch Contenders competition, which will feature a $2.5 million total prize pool.
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As a widely used video platform for young people and anime enthusiasts in China, Bilibili has long been engaged in esports, especially in League of Legends and Overwatch.
In 2017, Bilibili acquired the Chinese League of Legends team IM, and rebranded it to Bilibili Gaming (BLG). The team competes in China’s top professional league for the game, six teams of which own and compete from their own esports venues across China (though Bilibili has yet to announce plans for its own venue).
In September 2018, Bilibili secured a franchise slot in the second season of the Overwatch League (OWL), which features city-based teams spread across North America, Europe, and Asia. The company named its Overwatch team the Hangzhou Spark. Though the price of an individual franchise has never been made public, reporting from ESPN indicates that Bilibili paid somewhere between $30-$60 million for its slot in the league.
Bilibili Esports was set up as a separate division of the company in 2018. Rui Chen, the CEO of Bilibili, also acts as chairman of Bilibili Esports, while Youyou Chen, former CEO of livestreaming platform Zhanqi, is president of the company.
In December 2019, Bilibili reportedly agreed to pay 800 million yuan ($113 million) as part of a three-year exclusive deal for the Chinese livestreaming rights for the League of Legends World Championships.
Bilibili is one of the few companies in the world that operate as a multi-esports team owner, tournament operator, and esports content provider. Competitive video gaming evidently is important to the company’s vision for the future, and now Bilibili also has the chance to promote Chinese esports on the global stage.