ESL North America and AT&T expand esports partnership

This expansion enables two additional seasons of the ESL Mobile Open, in addition to a number of features offered at ESL One New York and IEM Chicago.

ESL North America and AT&T are renewing a partnership established last year. This expanded corporate partnership will allow AT&T to provide new services, in addition to an extension of the ESL Mobile Open, a league that was established in March 2019. The ESL Mobile Open is intended for amateurs to compete on the big stages at events like ESL One and Dreamhack. 

"ESL Mobile Open’s inaugural Season One attracted more than 135,000 participants and reached an audience of more than 5 million through social media, influencers and live broadcasts," according to a press release sent to GameDaily. "Seasons Two and Three will expand to include all of North America, with live finals at ESL One New York and DreamHack Atlanta."

The long-established esports powerhouse teamed up with AT&T in 2018 to provide better in-person and online experiences for esports fans. As ESL's telecommunications and mobile gaming partner, AT&T has been integral in ESL's biggest North American events, including the E3 ESL Arena, ESL One New York, and Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) North America. 

“Our relationship with AT&T has created groundbreaking opportunities that have generated interest in esports beyond the traditional fan,” said Paul Brewer, SVP Brand Partnerships, ESL North America. “By expanding it, we’ll continue collaborating with AT&T to innovate the space and create the next big thing for both casual and hardcore gamers.”

As in-person esports events continue to blur the lines between digital and physical, these kinds of corporate partnerships between telecommunications companies and esports organizations will continue to become the norm. Telecom is technically non-endemic to gaming, but it's an intrinsic piece of how fans interact with esports content, including videos and chat. 

AT&T will be providing "unparalleled access" to the ESL One New York and IEM Chicago events through a handful of new features:

  • Best Seats in the House: AT&T will provide a premium viewing area to deliver an enhanced experience for select AT&T customers onsite.
  • AT&T Signing Session and Fast Pass: Fans will have the opportunity to meet their favorite players in the designated AT&T signing area, while even earning a “fast pass” to beat the meet-and-greet lines.
  • Fan Early Access: Select AT&T customers can enter the event before the doors open to the public for a sneak peek at the main stage and more.
  • Event App: Fans can download the event app presented by AT&T at IEM Chicago and ESL One New York to stay up to date on the competition, partner activation schedule, latest event news, and other challenges and activities.

The unfortunate fallout of this is that esports fans who aren't AT&T customers aren't eligible for these perks. As each of the major telecom companies, including T Mobile (which backs the New York Excelsior in Overwatch League) and Sprint (which threw its support behind Eleague in 2017), continue to toss their brands in the esports arena, exclusive access to events may end up becoming the norm. It may be a conversion tactic, intended to draw more people into choosing one service over another, but could end up putting artificial walls around events that are supposed to connect fans rather than divide them. Given telecom companies active efforts to segment users through their opposition to net neutrality, these exclusivity offers may be a physical test flight for the digital future AT&T and others have been angling for.

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