Noah Whinston on Blizzard having two OWL teams in LA: 'I don't necessarily view having a second team in the market as a pure downside'

by Daniel Rosen Aug 11 2017
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Immortals

Immortals CEO Noah Whinston isn't worried that his organization will be going up against traditional sports giants when Blizzard's hotly anticipated Overwatch League kicks off later this year. If anything, he thinks that Immortals are poised to wipe the floor with them for the first few seasons.

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On Thursday, Blizzard announced that the Kroenke family, owners of the LA Rams and Arsenal FC among other sports teams, were buying into the Overwatch League and would field a second Los Angeles-based team. They'll be splitting the city with Immortals, who were announced as having the first LA-based OWL team back in July. Despite the huge name cache of the Kroenke's traditional sports brands, Whinston doesn't view splitting the city with them as a negative.

"It changes things slightly. I think from our perspective, the benefits of participating in an LA market far outweighed the potential downsides of having a second team in-market," he told theScore esports. "But I don't necessarily view having a second team in the market as a pure downside. Obviously you have to share the market with another party, but LA is also a very big and very heterogeneous market.

"The two teams are going to be based in very different locations. They will probably have very different brand identities. They will likely target two very different segments of the overall Overwatch fan base and if we're targeting and marketing to two different segments then we can create the kind of local rivalry that a lot of traditional sports teams have. If we do that right, having two teams in the same market kind of becomes a positive engagement tool rather than a negative thing that splits up viewership."

Whinston added that Immortals were aware of the possibility of a second team in Los Angeles when they bought their spot, and on Thursday, Blizzard told theScore esports that the Kroenkes were aware of this possibility as well. However, Whinston points to the fact that Immortals already have a location picked out and a target demographic as part of why that doesn't necessarily matter.

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In June, Immortals secured an investment from AEG that gave them the ability to host events at LA Live, AEG's entertainment complex in Los Angeles, which will give them access to a home venue when the OWL moves to a home and away game system. Whinston says that Immortals aren't ready to share information on their target demographic quite yet, but believes that his team and the Kroenke's will be looking at different markets.

"We anticipate that the way we present ourselves as an organization will be very different from the way that the other Los Angeles team does," he said. "I wouldn't say that there's necessarily a part of the market like 'we're going to be the team for people under 24 and they're going to be the team for people over 24.' Realistically, as with every city that has multiple teams, each team takes on a different place within the local fanbase. The Clippers and the Lakers mean two very different things. The Ducks and the Kings mean two very different things. And the LA Overwatch team owned by the Kroenkes and the LA Overwatch team owned by Immortals will take on very different meaning within the overall Los Angles sports ecosystem."

Of course, Whinston points out at there's one thing that Immortals have that the Kroenkes don't, and that's their experience in the scene, which he thinks will give Immortals a bit of an edge once the OWL starts up.

"I think barring them going out there and buying all of Lunatic Hai, we're gonna beat up on them competitively for the first few years," he said.

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.