A Major League Baseball higher-up is leaving the world of sports and jumping into the world of digital sports video games. Current MLB Deputy Commissioner of Business and Media Tony Petitti is leaving his role with MLB and moving to Activision Blizzard where he will become the new President of Sports & Entertainment. Petitti will report directly to CEO Bobby Kotick while remaining based in New York, New York, officially starting in the position next week. The move appears to bolster Activision’s commitment to esports in particular, though Petitti “will oversee esports, consumer products, and film and television.”
I look forward to Tony Petitti joining @ATVI_AB as President of Sports & Entertainment. His success in media & as Deputy Commissioner and COO of @MLB is the perfect blend of skills to help us realize our aspirations for #esports and our related businesses. https://t.co/uivVa7RhnO
— Bobby Kotick (@BobbyKotick) August 10, 2020
“Tony is one of the most highly regarded executives in sports and entertainment,” says Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard in today’s release. “His success in media and as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball is the perfect blend of skills to help us realize our aspirations for esports and our related businesses. He is admired by owners, media executives, players and fans.” The move takes someone with proven success and experience in the world of American meat sports and brings it to an American side of esports to try to capture audiences in new ways.
This is especially pertinent given that according to former Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer in 2018 the overarching goal of OWL was to copy the model for sports fandom in place with actual sports leagues such as MLB, creating a “home team” atmosphere that Activision Blizzard could monetize. Call of Duty League also moved to a franchised model this year, with teams being location based. With Overwatch League suffering from its share of troubles recently, a fresh perspective from somebody outside of the industry may be just what is needed. Of course, one shouldn’t discount the “& Entertainment” side of Petitti’s title, which includes consumer products and maybe more notably, film and television.
Petitti served as Deputy Commissioner, Business and Media of Major League Baseball and Chief Operating Officer of the MLB, where he oversaw marketing, broadcasting and media rights sales, the MLB Network, digital content, youth programming and special events. Before that, he launched and served as President of the MLB Network, and his history there could offer hints at what expertise Activision is hoping to capture with his appointment to this executive position at the company.