UK-based gaming operator Gfinity is in discussions with Formula One around a multi-year extension to its esports series, according to executive chairman Garry Cook.
Manchester City’s former chief executive, who now heads up Gfinity, said that negotiations around rights fees are ongoing between broadcasters and the motorsports racing giant.
“We have done a second year with Formula One – and now we are in a multi-year discussion,” Cook said, speaking with media at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club at the BT Centre in London.
“I think the leagues and all the rights holders are going to need an exclusive operator. How everybody determines the economics is a discussion that is happening every day.”
The second official season of the Formula One esports championship, which features all the current teams with the exception of Ferrari, will come to an end on the 17th November following a two-day final.
“The reason that Ferrari believe they are set above the rest is because of the performance of their machinery,” Cook continued. “In the esports world, all the machinery is the same – it’s just the delivery that’s different.
“The conversation needs to be ‘if you think about your engine, you will never come to esports’. If you think about connecting with the audience of tomorrow, you have no choice but to be in esports.
“Therein lies the biggest challenge for all sports – the convergence of what was in the past with the future.”
Gfinity executive chairman Garry Cook (image: Sport Industry Group)
Cook, who started out with Nike in the mid-1990s where he helped expand Michael Jordan’s global empire, says sports consumption is undergoing another global shift – driven in major part by the new breed of gaming consumer.
“We live in a different world now because you can get anything, anywhere, anytime,” Cook said. “The gaming community is growing up in that world – not in an exclusive world where the athletes are going to tell them what to do. They are the athletes.
“They are no longer revering [athletes like] Michael Jordan in the same way. Their peer group is who they refer to, so that dynamic is changing.”
Gfinity was also appointed last month to facilitate an inaugural ‘ePremier League’ tournament in collaboration with EA Sports.
It will be a pivotal moment for sports gaming, Cook says, which he hopes will act as a catalyst for a new relationship between the esports community and the traditional soccer clubs.
“Right now the Premier League would receive the sponsorship fees, but it doesn’t mean that will continue to be the case,” Cook said. “In the future, the tournament operator could become a rights holder, which creates a new revenue stream.
“Like with Formula One, the test [with the Premier League] is really about getting the clubs to understand the opportunity – where they can have players around the world playing in their own tournament.
“If you can build a community that, when you subscribe to it – one where you can play, watch and engage with – my own community is going to become my own content hive. That is what’s going to attract people in future, because it’s a ‘cool experience’.
“It is like the pioneers putting a stake in the sand. I think that’s what everybody is doing but somebody has to lead the way. If you going to run a marathon, somebody has to take the first step.”