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First five slots in franchised Call of Duty league sold to OWL owners

Steven R. May 3, 2019

The first permanent franchises for the upcoming Call of Duty league have been announced.

According to a statement by Activision-Blizzard, franchises for the cities of New York, Paris, Atlanta, Dallas, and Toronto have been sold. The slots have been awarded to the ownership groups of corresponding Overwatch League teams.

“The upcoming launch of our new Call of Duty esports league reaffirms our leadership role in the development of professional esports,” Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said. “Our owners value our professional, global city-based model, the success we have had with broadcast partners, sponsors and licensees, and the passion with which our players have responded to our events.”

At present, Call of Duty’s competitive scene revolves around the Call of Duty World League, a circuit which includes a rigorous qualification process that sets teams up with spots in a series of events. In February, ESPN reported that Activision-Blizzard was looking to change that to a permanent, city-based franchise format. The structure inspired by traditional sports leagues has been done with Overwatch League, with established esports brands buying in alongside NFL, MLB, and NBA team owners.

Many speculated that the OWL’s success in attracting companies willing to invest eight-figure sums of money into the league was in part due to anticipation of a similar system being brought to Call of Duty. Early adopters to the OWL expected to have the inside track on a spot in a closed Call of Duty league and it seems that those suspicions have been proven correct. Financial details on franchise sales were not given, but ESPN previously reported that Activision-Blizzard was looking for $25 million for each spot.

What comes next for the league is unknown.

Details are still scarce when it comes to the league with its start date, number of teams, and even the league’s name. The first season of Overwatch League included only 12 teams, but that expanded to 20 for the 2019 season. It is also unknown how many other OWL ownership groups are interested in branching out and what degree of interest there is from outside OWL team owners.

The 2019 Call of Duty World League season is currently underway with the finals set to take place July 19.

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