French cable TV giant Canal+ has announced it is now sponsoring Team Vitality, one of the largest esports teams in France.
The Canal+ Group boasts more than 15 million paying subscribers to its TV channels, and has annual revenues of almost €5.5 billion. It is the first major European TV channel to directly sponsor an esports team.
— CANAL+ (@canalplus) June 4, 2016
Canal+ corporate background is strong in esports
The group is ultimately owned by Vivendi, one of the 50 largest quoted companies in Europe. Vivendi’s interest in esports has been substantial:
- Until July 2013, it was the majority owner of Blizzard Activision, the developer of StarCraft 2, Call of Duty and Hearthstone. Vivendi retains an 11.8 percent stake in the company.
- Vivendi is also the owner of Gameloft, a developer of games and the host of February’s Heroes of Order & Chaos International Series Winter Tournament in San Francisco.
- Canal+ Sport is one of the most prominent sports broadcasters in Europe. It bought the rights to broadcast the FIA Formula One World Championship and the English Premier League soccer games in 2013.
This unusual corporate background is at least partly responsible for Canal+ leaping into esports team sponsorship before the other European broadcasters.
Canal+ has made no announcements about broadcasting any special esports leagues or tournaments, but it can only be a matter of time.
Last week, the world’s largest broadcaster, Comcast, announced its own sponsorship of Team Evil Geniuses, as well as a tie up with ESL that will see the Xfinity brand displayed at ESL league events.
As with the Canal+ venture, Comcast didn’t commit to broadcasting the events themselves.
Team Vitality has mass market appeal
Many of its team members have achieved considerable celebrity in France and internationally. The team’s success has also secured sponsorships from Xbox One, Burn Controllers, and among others, the video streaming service Dailymotion.