[toc]ESL has formed a strategic partnership with France’s largest media group, Vivendi, and its subsidiary the CANAL Group. The first action of the partnership will be the launch of new French esports leagues.
The new leagues will be based on the existing ESL Championnat National. The agreement will see the leagues televised and broadcast on CANAL Group channels such as Canal+.
Canal+ became a sponsor of Team Vitality in June this year, the first major European TV channel to sponsor an esports team.
The Vivendi press release explains that:
“The re-imagined national league will help French pro-gamers to stand out and compete against the best teams in international competitions held around the world by ESL and partnering game publishers.”
CANAL Group and ESL plan to organize major international events
As part of an objective to “strengthen the role of France as a key country in the international esports circuit,” the CANAL Group and ESL will co-organize “major international events” to be held in France.
The partnership says that it will bring “new excitement to the local eSports community in France.”
Game selection will be informed by European cultural concerns
The specific esports games that will be covered by the new league and be promoted by the partnership have not been finally decided. The ESL Championnat National currently offers competition in CS:GO and League of Legends games.
One preoccupation which may affect the choice of games is the European reluctance to promote games that contain particularly violent scenes.
German soccer club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, recently said that it would not be joining the rush into esports because the sector is “dominated by first person shooter games which do not fit the club’s image or training philosophy. TSG will not invest in a sports trend where it cannot be ruled out that it encourages aggressive or emotionally damaging behavior.”
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Vivendi to provide support for the esports initiative through subsidiaries
Vivendi will support the partnership via its subsidiaries, Universal Music Group and video streaming site Dailymotion together with its “activities in live events such as L’Olympia and Digitick.”
The Canal Group has launched a new TV show dedicated to esports and its “stars.” The Canal Esports Club will be backed up by the broadcast of a special documentary on esports, Game Fever, which is being given a prime time spot on the new channel on Oct. 26.
Vivendi sold Blizzard Activision, but is rebuilding gaming capability
Vivendi is one of the fifty largest quoted companies in Europe. It has a wide range of diverse interests centered around broadcast media, but it is also the owner of Gameloft and a major shareholder in Ubisoft.
Gameloft is a game developer which was ranked number two in the world in iOS and Google Play by the combined number of games downloaded, according to rankings from App Annie.
Ubisoft is the developer of the Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Watch Dogs console games as well as the Tom Clancy video game series. Vivendi is trying to gain full control of the company, but at the moment is in a battle with the management, which wants to retain independence.
Vivendi sold Blizzard Activision in 2013, but it clearly wants to re-establish a global presence in esports and video games.
French esports betting is on the regulator’s agenda
The French government and its gambling regulator ARJEL is taking esports betting seriously.
In April, French Secretary of State Axelle Lemaire announced the launch of a government-sponsored “France eSports” federation which will advise the government on regulating esports.
In its annual report for 2015/2016, ARJEL explained its thinking on esports and how it is currently studying the situation with a view to allowing esports betting.
The French regulatory system is based on allowing wagers on games of skill, not of chance. Roulette is not authorized as an online game, but poker, horse race betting and sports betting are.
Earlier this year, ARJEL added daily fantasy sports (DFS) to its list of regulated activities, and it is only a matter of time before esports betting is also allowed.
Vivendi’s determination to promote esports will bring a larger French audience; ARJEL’s determination to regulate esports betting will give that audience a chance to engage more deeply with their favorite teams and esports by allowing them place wagers.
By this time next year, there could well be an active, regulated esports betting market in France.