Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty League launched its inaugural season in January 2020, with 12 franchises paying $25 million each to compete in the wildly popular video game, according to ESPN.
"Call of Duty" is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time and has millions of active players on consoles, computers, and mobile devices. The Call of Duty League pays professional players a salary to compete in front of thousands of fans at live events in cities around the world.
Back in 2017, 12 teams paid $20 million to join Activision's first franchised esports competition, the Overwatch League, but the price to invest in Activision's newest esports initiative has gone up, according to Jacob Wolf of ESPN. The Overwatch League added eight new expansion teams ahead of its second season in 2019, with franchises paying between $30 and $60 million each for the rights to join, ESPN reported.
The Call of Duty League shares 10 of its 12 franchise owners with the Overwatch League, reflecting their confidence in Activision Blizzard's business model. Franchise investors range from endemic esports organizations with venture-capitalist backing to media conglomerates and sports franchises like the Los Angeles Rams.
Each Call of Duty League team has a home city, though not all of the team owners are from the same region. Activision wants live Call of Duty League events to turn local attendees into lifelong fans of esports. So far thousands of fans have filled arenas in the US and Europe for Call of Duty League matches, but the league's traveling schedule has been put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus.
On March 12 the league announced that it would shift to an online-only match schedule.
"Call of Duty League has seen firsthand the power of our live events in our inaugural season, and will return to city-based competition in front of live audiences as soon as it is safe and logistically possible," the league said in a statement.
Activision plans to continue broadcasting its esports leagues live online usual, though there wont be fans in attendance. The company recently reached a deal with Google to make YouTube the official streaming home of the Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, and other Activision esports games. Activision's broadcasting deal with YouTube was valued at $160 million, according to The Esports Observer.