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XLIVE Interview Series
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Chris Chaney Interview (video) - XLIVE Esports Summit 2018

We sat down with Chris Chaney, President at Infinite Esports & Entertainment, at the XLIVE Esports Summit, April 2-3 in Los Angeles, CA.

CHRIS CHANEY INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

[0:00] Here we are with Chris Chaney, president of infinite esports. Now we all got to know how many days a week do you work out?

[00:07] Five Days Max? No, actually seven, seven days.

When? I’m a morning guy, five days a week is kind of my thing. What are you in the morning or nights?

[00:15] Morning workouts. That’s the energy for the day. I need that thing.

[0:23] Perfectly aligned man haha. You’re doing a bunch in this space. You just launched Arlington Center, you’ve got a bunch of things going on with Optic. You just made another acquisition of a merch brand. Update us, man. Well, give us the skinny on what’s going on.

Sure. Well, we’ve been busy, we’ve been really busy. We’ve been really planting our flag in the Texas market. We’re really excited about the opportunity that we see across the whole state. We’re based in the Dallas area, we, as you mentioned, have been acquiring some businesses, but at the end of the day, what we’re looking to do is really build a somewhat cohesive ecosystem of companies, that can be really complimentary in terms of their businesses. So the merch company that we bought can work with our teams, that can work with our academy, it can work with our events business and at the same time it can service others in the industry. And that’s the model that we’re taking, with basically all of our companies.

[1:22] So what does that Arlington deal look like? Give us some insight. How’d that get done?

Well, we’re very fortunate to be partnered with the owners of the Texas rangers and the Rangers are based in Arlington. So with that comes a very close relationship with the city and the city has been so forward thinking. When we started speaking with them about esports, they immediately latched onto the idea of being the first city in Texas to have an esports stadium or an esports arena. So we started talking and it really only took a matter of weeks for the city to approve a deal in which they are funding the renovation of the current convention center and making it into an esports stadium and, we’re running it. So we’re doing the events side and we’re running all the production for the stadium itself. And the city is underwriting it, basically underwriting it financially. So Arlington has been amazing, again very forward thinking and we’re excited about having the first full esports venue in Texas.

[2:29] That’s incredible. I’m pretty sure you’re there to stay. It’s a 10 year deal, right?

[02:33] Yes. We were there to stay 10 years like you said, and then an option for another 10 years and we’ll be bringing a lot of great content into the market and we feel obviously that, LA has basically been the hub for esports for the longest here in North America. There is no reason why Texas as a whole and Dallas specifically shouldn’t be a hub as well.

[02:58] So are those consumers going to be in there every single day? Is this gonna be open to the public on a regular basis? A special event kind of idea or concept?

We’re figuring out the model right now and it’ll be a mix. So you’ll have your special events on the weekend where we may draw 500, a thousand, 2000 people and then you’ll have your really big events maybe once or twice a year and then we’ll look to do as much programming throughout the week. Do Open sessions where you can come in and you can maybe bring your own computer or you can participate in a league that we host at the event itself, or maybe there’s a membership model where you pay a certain fee per month to actually be able to, to go and play and hang out. So we’re working on the model right now, but we’re certainly looking to bring in a lot of special and big events.

[03:45] When can I go? I got to know.

[03:47] September, October. I’ll give you a firm date soon.

[03:51] Awesome. Give us some insight to your day to day. You’re president of the company. What’s top of mind for you? What do you waking up thinking about every day?

[03:58] I think a lot about our overall strategy and where we’re going. The company itself is still really young. We technically launched in early November, so we’re just a few months into it and a lot has happened. We’ve hired a lot of people. We’ve hired 70 people or so I think in those last few months and so it’s a process to get everyone on boarded and then be able to establish some cohesive teams within that. Um, I think a lot about where we’re going overall as a business, where is the industry also going and, and understanding whether we’re moving against the grain or with the grain. Um, and then more on a granular level communication communication I think is within a fast growing business. One of the biggest challenges and one of the biggest opportunities to succeed for us to better communicate internally with each other. We basically have six different ventures. We have five different team brands and we have another five different departments. So we basically have 16 different groups within our company as a whole and if those aren’t talking, you know, well with each other then all of a sudden things get lost and there can be some, you know, they can be real challenges that are not beneficial to running your business. So I think a lot about high level strategy where we’re moving what are the steps for us to take over the next year or two years and probably not beyond that because it’s the industry is somewhat unpredictable. Um, and then at the same time thinking on a very granular level, how do we better communicate, how do we make sure that we keep accountability really high within the company and how do we push our team members to be the best, you know, to really maximize performance and have a good time in the process.

[05:56] That’s amazing. Let’s talk a little bit about strategy. Where do you think things are going. Is it the PC genre, is it console, are we going to go more to mobile?

[06:05] Well, Khan, the console space is challenged simply put, I’m not quite sure if I see a future there except for the North American market specifically because we already own consoles, have already such a deep penetration. You have millions of consoles as is here in the United States, so it’s, it’s easier to, you know, to throw in a console esports, but your reach is limited. Your reach is limited to North America, may be a little bit of Europe. Once you’re talking about pc and particularly once you’re talking about mobile, I think your reach truly as global and you’re already seeing that games like call of duty are really North American and some, you know, a little bit of Europe based Games. Um, whereas a game like League of legends is truly global and then you look at some of the up and coming mobile titles that really have that opportunity to be even bigger than pce sports. I think console will continue to have its place as a niche within the esports segment. And PC and mobile will dominate the future in my mind.

[7:40] Amazing. When it comes to content, broadcasting rights, and platforms, what do you think? Do you feel beholden to the platforms? Do you look to kind of diversify away from kind of having to lean so much on Twitch? What do you think?

Yeah, I think it’s good for the market to have more players that are buying content that are creating content that are, you know, ultimately distributing content. Twitch has been one of the key drivers to the success of esports to date and I think we’re all very grateful for that and at the same time it’s good from a competitive standpoint to have more, more to have more platforms, whether that’s a facebook, even twitter in some ways, um, maybe some of your traditional platforms like an espn or Fox sports that can start buying up content and distributing that through their channels. And it’s good for the ecosystem because once you have that competition between twitch and others, I think it increases broadcast revenue ultimately for the leagues and also for the teams, which is I think good for everyone. And an overall competition as we see on a team level is good for business. Right? If we have other great teams that we can compete with, maybe create some rivalries that is good for business, that makes for good content, good storylines, hopefully some exciting matches and then also in terms of the business side behind that when you have twitch and facebook and others competing for rights and hopefully investing more in the production and the production quality and really making it more of an emphasis that east sports content, so twitch is great and we’re hoping for more players to come into the space and make it more competitive and I think more and more beneficial for everyone.

[9:14] Where does the amateur audience and that farm league system fit into kind of your greater strategy and how do you think that can play a fit to everything you do on the pro level? I mean you’re playing on such a high level, the top echelon. The one percent of the one percent. Do you think about the amateur scene much?

I think about it all the time and it’s increasingly important because right now, and we talked about it earlier during the panel, there is really not that path to pro today as a, as a pro overwatch player, a pro league of legends player in some ways being a pro or becoming a pro happened by accident. There’s no actual path like you have in traditional sports that takes you from a young kid, through junior high school, high school, College, and all the way to the pros. We firmly believe that this underlying amateur, developmental ecosystem needs to be developed that we have to play a part in that as a team, as an organization to help foster that because when we invest in that next generation of talent that, and hopefully at some point that Cristiano Ronaldo, that Lebron James of esports, that’s a really exciting future to think about. These players are our global superstars. They have massive brands that in some ways a transcend beyond their sports, beyond soccer, beyond basketball. And I think we have a place to play or a role to play in order to promote that, to help develop talent, invest in our own amateur leagues, to bring players in house to do PR sessions with them, you know, how do you talk in front of the press in front of the camera, how to build your social media brand, how to be a good teammate, what does it mean to be a leader in game and outside of the game. And those are all things where at the amateur level we feel that we can have a big impact and we need to be invested in that, and we are.

[11:17] That’s amazing. One last question for you. We referenced some of the Big Stars in the space and that we’re looking for a Lebron James of the space, I heard you on the panel saying we don’t quite have that yet. And I think we’re looking for it. What about the adjacency to traditional talent today, and bringing them in? You look at what Ninja and Drake did, how do you feel about that connection? Do you think we’d rather keep them separate, do you think we should own the space ourselves, or do you think it’s valuable?

[11:40] I love it. Quite frankly. I love it. It’s great for esports. I mean in some ways, not that we need that as an industry, but in some ways it legitimizes esports. It puts us on par with the rest of of pop culture and mainstream. Now. There are certainly voices and some opinions with any sports that might say, well, we don’t need that. We were doing our own thing. We don’t need the mainstream. We don’t need pop culture, but in some ways we do because when you’re speaking with brands today, their understanding is still really limited of esports. But once you put Ninja and Drake together and they see it the next day on CNBC or on the today show, people start talking about it, all of a sudden it’s real because things like that legitimize that esports is real and it’s here to stay and that helps the brands make that jump into the space because of that legitimacy. And on top of that, it creates cool content, interesting storylines and as we’ve seen in traditional sports, a lot of times these pop culture icons, think of someone like Jay z who was, who was involved with the New Jersey Nets at the time and now the Brooklyn Nets, he became a brand ambassador for that team and it greatly benefited that team. And so in the same way I think we can bring in people from outside of esports like a Shaquille O’neal and others and they can become ambassadors for esports and it’s a really, really positive things. So I highly encourage that and I’m excited to see more crossover between esports and pop culture and esports and the mainstream.

That’s amazing, Chris, thanks so much for your time. The Arnold Schwarzenegger of esports!

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