Slingshot’s Vince Nairn caught up with ELEAGUE general manager/vice president Christina Alejandre during the ELEAGUE Major.
Vince Nairn: I feel like I ask you this often, but how do you evaluate success now? And how is that metric different for the Major compared to Season 1 or 2 of ELEAGUE?
Christina Alejandre: For Seasons 1 and 2 of ELEAGUE, as we’ve talked, it was to be authentic, to really get engagement from the community, from the existing esports community. Then as we went into the Major, my main goal was to take all of our key learnings from Season 1 to Season 2, when we did the Overwatch Tournament, and take all those key learnings and try to make the best event possible. This is the perfect way, in my opinion, to kick off the year, and we wanted to kick it off with a big bang.
VN: What went into the process of transforming the Fox Theater to make it sort of esports friendly?
CA: It’s an older building, as you can tell. Slightly older. There were definitely some networking infrastructure that we had to do to put into the building, but the building was very well equipped to handle it. We had this huge stage, this amazing atmosphere. So it’s just a little bit of the technological stuff, so pretty much just networking. We moved our desks over here. We moved our analyst desks over here. So just getting that all installed. But they’re pretty well wired here, so it wasn’t that difficult.
VN: Was there a desire to still have kind of the ELEAGUE signature with as much as you could?
CA: They’re definitely ELEAGUE signature. If you look at even the set, it’s very ELEAGUE. There’s no question it is an ELEAGUE set. It’s our desks and everything. It goes back to our key learnings. We’ve earned over the last year what works, what doesn’t work, what we’d maybe like to experiment with. Because what we didn’t want to do is go, “OK, we know all the things that work, so that’s all we’re gonna do.” So we know all the things that work. We have a really solid foundation. Let’s use this as an opportunity to really think outside the box and experiment a little bit to make it the best event that we possibly could.
VN: What are the things that you with ELEAGUE need to present to the rest of Turner for them to continue to get behind this? Or numbers or metrics you want to hit? What do you need to present in terms of evidence for Turner to continue to support this?
CA: For the first year, a lot of it is around authenticity and engagement. They hear how amazing this esports space is, but they also know that if we weren’t authentic or didn’t get engagement from esports fans the first year, we were dead in the water. So we have the first year, really refining our strategy, remaining authentic, all that jazz. And then, when we go into this next year, we’re looking to experiment a little and try new things and take those learnings that gives us the ability — like I just talked about with the Major. But it does give us that ability to experiment, know what kind of best practices are to remain authentic and engage that audience. But do it so we can expand outside the core.
VN: Is it a season-to-season contract with Turner? Or is it set over a number of years? And I ask that for the purpose of asking if you feel you have that freedom to experiment? Or if you worry you have to kind of stay in your lane so that this keeps getting picked up?
CA: I think if you look back at other Turner Sports properties or verticals they do, you’re never as good as our last show. So we’re always looking to improve. We’re always looking to innovate. We’re always looking to experiment. There are some signatures that we do have and we do keep, but I don’t think that does anyone any good if we’re not constantly evolving or finding ways to evolve. It’s not like we put this pressure where we have to do the biggest, best thing ever, every single time and keep topping that. Because that’s just an effort of futility. But there’s always that pressure. It doesn’t come from the publisher. It doesn’t come from any of our partners. It’s really pressure that we at ELEAGUE puts on ourselves. So I would hope that if you looked our product from Season 1 to Season 2 to Overwatch to the Major, you see just improvement and even changes. I’m not sure if that answers the question or not.
VN: Yeah, it kind of does. I guess, do you feel like you have the freedom to take risks knowing that if one doesn’t work out, Turner isn’t going to pull the plug?
CA: A lot of esports companies out there are great companies. They put on amazing events. But they’re not hugely profitable. And we can keep on doing what every esport company is doing, but in my opinion that’s the definition of insanity. If you keep doing the same thing over again and expecting different results, you’re insane. So as we look into growing and evolving, we have to try new things and we have to take risks because we won’t be able to move forward if we don’t. Turner, WME|IMG, ELEAGUE, they’ve been fantastic allowing “Hey, what is you pie in the sky scenario? What would you do? Let’s experiment.” I go and I talk to Craig (Barry) and he pushes me to actually think outside the box and not do the same thing over and over again. That, to me, is very freeing and gratifying and takes a little of the weight off my shoulders. And they also understand that there are experiments that are going to take place, and some are successful and some aren’t. But they key thing they understand with that is with those experiments, you can always take learnings away from them. You can always apply that to the next thing that you work on and constantly iterate and constantly improve.
VN: Do you have any updates on Season 3 of ELEAGUE you can share at this time?
CA: I do not have any updates to share.
Cover photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE, illustration by Slingshot