Christina Alejandre is the vice-president and general manager of ELEAGUE, Turner and WME-IMG's new televised CS:GO league. At the league's press day, she took the time to speak with theScore esports about her goals for the league and how it all started for her one stormy, fateful night.
When was it that you first heard about the whole ELEAGUE, video games on television thing?
So, I've been in esports for four, five years, and so I hear about things and rumblings all the time. I actually was working at Warner Brothers, and I was overseeing a game called Infinite Crisis — which was a failed DC Comics MOBA —
I’m well aware of it, and I’m sad with you.
It was such a great game! And yeah, sorry, I love the Infinite Crisis team, they’re some of my best friends. So I was really into esports then, and when I was at Warner Brothers I knew Turner was looking to get into esports. ... Infinite Crisis ended, then I went over to ESL and was consulting there and my friend forwarded me this Kotaku article titled “No-one Alive Could Fill Time Warner’s eSports Job.” The job had a lot of different qualifications: working for a traditional video games publisher, they wanted publishing, partner management, esports management. There aren’t a lot of people out there like that, so I was like, “I think what they’re doing is pretty big.”
So I sent a letter to them and said, "My name’s Christina, I saw the Kotaku article, just want to let you know that I am alive. And, you know, that I’m a good fit." ... Then when I started talking to them, that’s when I realized how big it was and what they were actually putting behind it. I was just sold immediately.
The thing that’s most striking to me about your story is that I was half-expecting there to be some resistance on Turner's side. I'd expected they would be less, “We want to do this,” and more, “What can you do for us?” I'm surprised they were the ones reaching out.
Ever since I came in, and Richard Lewis came in, [Turner’s] constantly looking for advice and looking to talk to people and get their feedback. There’s certain things where you don’t 100 percent agree, but it’s always open to conversation. 'Let’s learn as much as we can, let’s experiment a little, there might be some failures, there might be some trip ups.' Between doing that and having the powerhouse and knowledge that Turner has, I can’t see this not being successful.
I think a lot of companies say they want feedback, but then they’re like, “Duly noted! We’ll do what we do best!” But genuinely, right from the get go, Turner has been reaching out to all different people within the community, saying, “We want your feedback. We want to know what your thoughts are. We want to know what your experiences are.”
We didn’t want to come in and be like, “We’re TV, we’re gonna make it all TV-ified!” We wanted it to be as authentic as possible, because I think esports hasn’t gotten the framework and exposure that it deserves. That’s our job, to give it that, but remain as authentic as possible because the space is successful. Why reinvent the wheel?
So far you've ventured into CS:GO. Are there any other games, other than Infinite Crisis…
They were definitely not looking to broadcast Infinite Crisis. Oh my gosh, that would have been a mistake.
Hahaha, I was kidding! But are there other games Turner is interested in?
Counter-Strike is our flagship, it’s the one we’re doing for our first two tournaments. As the scene evolves and grows, we’re constantly evaluating what makes sense. I could see a world where we’ll still do Counter-Strike and still do ELEAGUE, but I can also see a world where we’ll also have other products under the ELEAGUE banner.
My whole vision for ELEAGUE is, I want players to walk across that stage and go, “Holy shit, I made it to ELEAGUE.” Whether that’s just Counter-Strike, whether that’s other games, that’s what I want people to think with ELEAGUE. I want to set the gold standard for esports.
It’s kind of weird because in this modern age, going to television feels a little backwards. But the reality is, TV is still that gatekeeper.
Yes. See, this is the amazing thing about Turner — they’re constantly looking to evolve, and they’re constantly looking to get better. And even though you’ve had people who’ve been here for years and years and years, they’re always looking to innovate and be better.
If you look at the stuff Turner has done with the NBA, it’s not anymore just a linear TV product. They have all these other digital products to help complement it, to help build the experience. For Turner, they’re not afraid to do those types of things and do those types of experiments. ELEAGUE is an experiment for Turner; it’s a digital product first, with a linear extension, while every other thing Turner does is a linear product first, with digital extension. I think they’re really trying to be cognizant of that.
They’re taking everything they know about the linear stuff and really helping complement that digital presence that esports has established. Those two things combined is really going to do great things for esports.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev. You can follow him on Twitter.