Dignitas, one of the longest standing esports organizations, is using a new round of funding to form a new parent company helping it invest further into sports and entertainment.
The organization, which was founded back in 2003, was acquired in September 2016 by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, who also owns and operates the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers, among other investments.
In June 2019, Dignitas merged with Clutch Gaming, an esports team owned by Fertitta Entertainment, which is led by Tilman Fertitta. That organization had previously acquired a franchise spot in League of Legends League Championship Series.
HBSE and Fertitta Entertainment led the Series A funding round, which raised $30 million. Other investors included Delaware North, Susquehanna Private Equity Investments and music industry executive Steven Rifkind.
As a result, a new parent company was formed – New Meta Entertainment. Michael Prindiville, who previously served as CEO of Dignitas, was named the NME’s CEO.
“Looking at this space, we think it’s bigger than just esports; it’s esports, it’s gaming, it’s entertainment, it’s music, and so on,” Prindiville said. “We felt there was an opportunity to build a digital sports and entertainment company that would complement the existing esports team, while also building around a content platform that centered on the confluence on gaming, sports, and music.”
Prindiville said that NME will focus on what he said are three “complementary and integrated businesses;” the esports teams playing under the Dignitas banner, a content and marketing business and an investment arm.
On the esports front, Dignitas has teams in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros. and Rocket League, among others. Clutch Gaming’s League of Legends’ team, which recently qualified for the game’s world championships, will rebrand as Dignitas starting in 2020. Dignitas also recently announced its plan to field a men’s team in CS:GO – it currently only has a woman’s team in the game.
Prindiville said with League of Legends and Counter-Strike covered, the organization sees an opportunity to perhaps add a team in other games, as well as expand into markets such as Europe, Brazil or China.
In June, Dignitas opened a new 3,000-square-foot gaming and content production studio in Newark, New Jersey adjacent to the Prudential Center, which HSBE also owns. The organization is also currently planning to build a similar facility in Los Angeles that will open next year.
Prindiville said those spaces will be crucial to the organization’s new content and marketing business, which will aim to work with influencers across gaming, sports, music and broader pop culture to produce projects and further monetize their respective brands.
A good example of how that would come to life is the Backstreet Boys’ recent tour stop at the Prudential Center. Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter is a huge fan of the game Counter-Strike – Dignitas and Prindiville arranged for him to go to the organization’s content studio before the concert, where he faced off in the game against one of the organization’s female Counter-Strike players.
“It’s about an hour or two before he’s scheduled to go on stage, and he’s here in the facility playing Counter-Strike for 45 minutes,” Prindiville said. “Between all of the events that come through the Prudential Center, as well as other influencers we can bring in, we think there are several opportunities where we can produce premium content.”
That effort will be further expanded thanks to the new investment from Delaware North, who in addition to owning and operating TD Garden in Boston also operates food, beverage and/or retail operations in more than 50 professional sports venues. Tilman Fertitta also owns and operates the Toyota Center in Houston where the Rockets play.
Prindiville said there have been discussions regarding how the new organization can potentially utilize the infrastructure owned and operated by its fellow partners.
Lastly, NME will also be launching an investment arm, looking to provide growth capital to companies in the digital sports and entertainment space. Prindiville said the company will be looking at investments in the gaming, esports and entertainment space.
It currently has one active investment – U.GG, a League of Legends coaching platform that was incubated at the HBSE-owned Sixers Innovation Lab.
Prindiville said the investment raised for the new company will be split across the three different efforts. He said the company views itself as “well-capitalized” and said there has not been a process of its next capital raise, although he didn’t rule out bringing on additional investors that could help scale its overall business.
“At this point, we’re no longer a fledgling company – we see this as a jet that can be flying on its own,” Prindiville said.