Esports Rising 2021 Recap: Activision Blizzard’s Johanna Faries – The Esports Observer

Activision Blizzard’s Johanna Faries broke down the Call of Duty League’s efforts to stay relevant during the pandemic and come back strong, saying, “At no point did anyone at Activision Blizzard — at our team level, in the league office — say ‘it’s over.’ It was just a more, ‘Okay, what are we going to do about it? How are we going to adjust? Esports is born online. We can do this.’” said Faries, who recently added GM of the Call of Duty franchise to her titles of Esports VP & Head of Leagues. Fairies was speaking at SBJ and The Esports Observer’s Esports Rising virtual conference on Tuesday. “It was long days, long nights,” she said, “But that’s the spirit of our esports division. We’re already in a startup mentality. We’re already trying to put huge, ambitious leagues on the map. So … it was just having to pivot.”

Addressing the fact that viewership actually improved for the CDL’s pandemic-altered season, Faries said simply having a season was “critically important.” Faries: “Because we go back to the values talk that we talk about all the time, I feel like a broken record, but it was really about being agile and open. … Once we hit that stride on the X’s and O’s, it was now about innovation. … That’s when we started to really start to see subscriber counts go up, hitting these high watermarks in terms of historic viewership. And so we almost became stronger for it.”

Faries also gave high marks for Activision Blizzard’s esports sponsors during the COVID crisis, noting USAA signed its “first-ever esports partnership with the CDL.” She also termed IBM Stats’ partnership with Overwatch League “tremendous.” She said, “It was really unknown, uncharted territory, and you had to make it the decisions so quickly. … Partners were calling. They were asking. ‘How do I stay involved? How do we keep true to the partnership?’ But what was amazing is we were able to preserve those partnerships, and we’ve seen so many new partners pour into the system.”

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