By Zane Bhansali
Comcast Spectacor and Korean telecommunications giant SK Telecom announced Monday that they're launching "T1 Entertainment and Sports," a new joint esports partnership.
The new venture will leverage the pedigree of SK Telecom's existing esports team, SK Telecom T1. The T1 name is well-known ー since its inception in 2004, the organization has fielded world-class players like Lim "BoxeR" Yo-hwan in Starcraft and won the League of Legends world championship a record-setting three times. SK Telecom T1 has become a household name in gaming largely thanks to these accomplishments.
Despite its competitive pedigree, the fact that SK Telecom is a solely Korean team has left it disconnected from the rapidly growing esports audience in other parts of the globe. While star player Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok's first-ever day streaming on Twitch in 2017 broke stream records at the time, viewership for SKT players has since dwindled. Now, President of Comcast Spectacor's Gaming Division Tucker Roberts wants to push that brand to another level.
"I think when you look at the top esports teams they are global to some extent," Roberts said in an interview with Cheddar Sports' Jimmy Mondal. "You want to have live content in each time zone, and so that's really going to be the focus for us. There's something really intimate and exciting about watching players live. That's something that SKT T1 has struggled with in the past, and we're really excited to start to break that trend and give something for the American and European audiences to look at."
T1 is focusing on connecting with local fans, but on a global scale. "In the Korean market, in Seoul particularly, there's a lot that we're about to do for the local fans," Roberts told Cheddar. "And then globally, we're excited to start putting a little bit more effort into the English-speaking audience and building content for them that will allow them to follow the team a little bit more closely."
In keeping with the new venture's global agenda, T1 Entertainment and Sports has announced the construction of offices in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Seoul, with the Korean capital serving as the organization's global headquarters. According to Spectacor Chief Business Officer Joe Marsh, T1 is looking to use that home base to bolster their already strong competitive roster.
"One of the things I'm really excited about is building a global HQ in Seoul, and a world class training facility for all of our teams that are based in Seoul," Marsh told Cheddar. In addition to its League of Legends team, SK Telecom T1 already fields a fully Korean PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Roster and a trio of Hearthstone players, two of whom are European. T1 only plans to expand its global roster under the new partnership, emphasizing individual regions for each game. "[We're excited to] find the best teams in each region and making sure they're going to have everything they need to compete on a global scale and win championships across the board," Marsh said.
As such, T1 has announced plans to acquire teams in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Fortnite, and Apex Legends. While Fortnite's star has been high for quite some time, Apex and Ultimate are both relatively new releases, indicating T1's focus on the future rather than the laundry list of impressive accolades the brand already holds.
"I'm just a Samus main, so that's why we're doing it for Smash." Roberts joked before explaining T1's process for picking selecting games. "One thing that we want to do is grow, and the best time to grow in esports is when the games are released, so they're some of the freshest and newest games out there."
Spectacor first entered into esports with a similar mindset ー in 2017, it became one of the inaugural 12 teams in Blizzard's Overwatch League by purchasing a franchise slot for their team, the Philadelphia Fusion. Both Fusion and its academy team, Philadelphia Fusion University, will not be part of the joint venture and will remain solely owned and operated by Comcast Spectacor.