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XLIVE Interview Series - Avi Bhuiyan - Catalyst Sports.jpg

XLIVE Interview Series - Avi Bhuiyan, Catalyst Sports and Entertainment

You joined Catalyst Sports & Entertainment less than a year ago, how has that been? Can you talk about some of the initiatives you have been working on since joining the team as Executive Vice President?

Working at Catalyst has been an awesome experience so far. Coming from Riot Games where I developed a lot of perspective on the publisher side of the esports ecosystem, entering the third party space as a trusted advisor to some of the most reputable names in both esports and traditional sports has been educational and a blast. I haven’t had a dull day since I started.

Along with my co-head of esports Bryce Blum (@esportslaw) I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with multiple major endemic esports teams, advising professional sports team ownership groups on where to make bets in esports, making investments in early-stage esports start-ups like Super League Gaming, and advising brands on how to successfully activate in esports.

Before this role, what had your history in Esports been?

I’ve been a hardcore gamer my entire life and a fan of esports for more than a decade, dating back to watching grainy Brood War VODs of Boxer dominating his opponents in the mid-00s.

Prior to joining Catalyst I was responsible for day-to-day league operations for the NA LCS at Riot Games for about two and a half years. Being part of the esports team at Riot and working on the product side of one of esports’ great cathedrals was an absolute pleasure. It’s been fun to work with former colleagues and other stakeholders in the LCS ecosystem from the other side since I left Riot, particularly with permanent partnership now being publicly known.

Catalyst was created to be the preeminent advisory firm to businesses seeking to enter and thrive in the Esports industry, which elements would you say are most important in driving an Esports business?

I think the most important elements are a focus on authenticity, being nearly over-the-top in how responsive you are to fans/consumers, quality, and having a great value proposition.

Gamers and particularly esports fans have grown up in an environment oversaturated by products, advertising, programming, and games; far more than they could possibly hope to consume in a lifetime. This has made us very discerning about the products, games, and services we choose to spend our dollars and more importantly our time on, which underscores the need for having the qualities highlighted above.

By the year 2019, the Esports industry is expected to be worth 1 billion dollars, what are you seeing as some of the emerging trends happening within the industry that you are particularly excited about.

The rising value of broadcast rights of esports events is allowing for publishers, teams, and tournament organizers to level up the quality of esports products and increase compensation for pro players. Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook have been ramping up an all-out battle royale for the rights to live esports content for some time now, and we’ve already seen other media heavyweights like MLBAM and ESPN willing to enter the fray as well. As someone with a deep love of esports products that’s an exciting trend to see, and one which will ultimately result in higher quality esports content for the fans who are the bedrock of the esports ecosystem.

The XLIVE Esports Summit is the first of it’s kind in the Esports industry, what are some other topics within the industry are you excited to bring to the discussion?

I’m very interested to talk about the growth potential of the industry. Esports is an entertainment product that almost entirely exists on digital platforms, and as such is tip of the spear for the next generation of entertainment and media rights deals as cable subscriptions and TV viewership dry up. These are just some of the reasons why forward-thinking professional sports teams and media companies are investing in esports, and why I firmly believe the best is yet to come for our industry.

Where are some areas of growth you would like to see within the Esports industry within the next five years?

I would love to see infrastructure around youth gaming and the path to pro even out so that we see better protection and development for aspiring and young professional gamers. I’d like to see a world where coaching a League of Legends or Clash Royale team is as normal as coaching a softball team.  I believe creating more structure will set up talented young gamers to better enjoy the same benefits that organized traditional sports offer: improving teamwork, discipline, tenacity, communication, etc. I think that among talented aspiring kids, well-rounded gamers have a better shot at making it as high-performing professionals, and that starts with infrastructure.

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