Activision Blizzard Esports Restructuring, 50 Employees Face Layoffs

Activision Blizzard Esports today will announce a restructuring that will result in the layoffs of about 50 people, moves that top executive Tony Petitti says are a result of how the group has had to re-invent itself amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview this morning with SBJ/TEO, Petitti didn’t divulge specifics on what roles would be affected. But he noted that the division – which runs the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League — is planning for a future where its business will look different and less dependent on live events.

The company said it retained the vast majority of its staff during 2020 but is now having to implement change. Activision says it is informing those who are losing their jobs today and that they will receive proper severance packages.

Petitti made clear that ABE isn’t moving 100% away from live events and on the contrary, will look to get back to them to some extent when possible. However, OWL and CDL have changed the concepts of their leagues during the pandemic from live, in-person home/away events that compared to stick-and-ball leagues to now running entirely online. It’s possible that online-only play could make up a significant, although not entire, part of OWL and CDL schedules long into the future.

He acknowledged that the cuts are due to a mixture of needing to cut costs and also re-allocate certain resources to other areas.

“We learned a lot last year in terms of how the leagues can be structured for online play, and we’ll look to carry forward the best practices from that,” said Petitti, who joined Activision Blizzard as president of sports and entertainment last August after a longtime role at MLB. “In terms of timing, it’s a reaction to the realities of how the leagues are playing and what resources we need to allocate to best serve the league, owners, teams and fans.”

Petitti indicated that CDL, which has already started its 2021 season, has seen some growth from last season in key performance indicators, and the company wants to spend more on areas where it feels it can drive higher engagement, viewership and returns for itself and its partners.

Petitti, who reports to Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, noted that there were discussions about how to best structure the league even before he started. The decision took time in part because “you never take anything like this lightly; these are our colleagues and something you spend a lot of time on thinking about making the best decisions you can make.”

He indicated that he remains bullish on seeing growth for both CDL and OWL, the latter of which starts its 2021 season next month but has had a harder time gaining a foothold in North America than CDL. He pointed to 100 Thieves entering CDL this offseason, Optic Gaming newly re-branding the Chicago CDL franchise and OWL creating an “East” circuit for this season with teams based in Asia as among the positive developments during the offseason.

“The company and the team are really optimistic that we’ve got something here and can continue to grow both,” he said. “There’s nothing but optimism and a sense that growth is going to be achieved.”

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