Glytch Wants to Build 32 Esports Arenas Across the Country. The Industry is Skeptical.

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Glytch Wants to Build 32 Esports Arenas Across the Country. The Industry is Skeptical.
Credit: Glytch

An undisclosed location along 405 Freeway could soon be home to one of the biggest experiments in esports’ evolution: A hulking, postmodern 3,000-person arena packed with professional-grade gaming tech that could serve as a meeting place for fans of all ages.

And if Irvine-based Glytch has its way, the stadium would be the first of many.

The company is poised to build 32 esports arenas across the nation in the next decade, betting big on a vision of competitive video game playing that follows the model of more traditional sports, where in-person action and ticketing income is key.

But others in the local esports market have pulled back on their plans for stadiums, focusing instead on the lucrative merchandising and sponsorship income that ballooned during the pandemic.

After a whirlwind few years when interest in esports skyrocketed, the industry is grappling with what the future of competitive play looks like.

In particular, teams and tournament organizers are facing a critical question: Is an in-person presence necessary to their operations?

‘Fans Need a Home’

Glytch is one esports outfit gunning for more arenas, betting that ambitious, state-of-the-art facilities could draw in even larger crowds by providing a centralized infrastructure for esports.

The company is currently working on the first of its stadiums in Los Angeles, home to a slew of top-talent esports teams and gaming companies, including TSM, Immortals, Cloud 9, Team Liquid and FaZe Clan. All have bases or training facilities in L.A.; none own stadium space, although gaming organization 100 Thieves operates its own broadcast center at its Culver City headquarters.

Glytch co-founder and chief financial officer Michael Williams wouldn’t disclose the exact location for his planned stadium, but he’s already inked a partnership with events company Legends that would see the New York-based firm – which has deals with Inglewood’s SoFi stadium and the LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium Downtown – operating all Glytch’s completed venues.

“There’s a lot of different stadiums [esports teams] can play at, but ultimately [fans] need a home,” Glytch’s CEO, Gerome Seeney told dot.LA.

The company’s custom-built arenas will each cost between $54 million and $75 million to construct and encompass 1,500 to 3,000 seats across a total 120,000 square feet, combined with a mixed-use stage and broadcasting capabilities.

Glytch is looking to subsidize some of that development cost with municipal funds. While it is not seeking city funding in LA, the company is “exploring” bond agreements with the cities of Chicago and Atlanta, Williams said.

Glytch, which counts Joe Montana and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin among its investors, plans to host at least 16 events each month. While it won't say precisely how much esports event tickets will cost, non-esports event tickets average around $80 in Los Angeles per Pollstar data, Williams said, adding that he was optimistic that price will continue to rise.

Williams wouldn’t disclose how much Glytch has raised since its 2020 launch but said, “the vast majority of our funding is from sports industry people, not venture people.”

Williams’ prior ventures include esports tournament organizer Oomba and video arcade chain GameWorks, which shut down in December 2021.

Glytch plans to generate revenue by hosting other events at its venues, along with esports.

“Today, we might have an esports event, tomorrow, there might be a TED talk,” Seeney said.

There currently aren’t any sponsors lined up to slap their name on Glytch’s forthcoming arena, and it’s too early for teams to be signed up to play there. Williams said Legends is responsible for courting naming rights deals roughly a year prior to opening.

To cater to a more casual crowd, Glytch’s stadium will contain a place for people to rent equipment to play live games on a local area network (also called a LAN center).

“We plan to charge very little for our LAN center because that will not be our primary source of income,” Williams said. “Having great gaming machines at a reasonable rental rate is not sufficient to pay the high rents charged in the L.A. basin. Instead, the company must have a complete solution that includes multiple revenue sources.”

And the venue would be part of a “broader, master-planned… entertainment, sports and wellness district” with a number of tenants and upcoming projects, according to Brian Mirakian, who works for Populous, the architecture firm tasked with designing the complex. The firm has helped build 1,300 sports stadiums globally, and is now working on a redesign of the L.A. Convention Center.

Mirakian compared Glytch to Topgolf, the driving range chain that recently opened a facility in El Segundo, adding that “there's a tremendous amount of excitement around returning to the live events.”

He said the arena is in the “early stages of design” and hasn’t yet broken ground – its estimated opening is first quarter of 2025.

Glytch isn’t alone in its ambitions to build an in-person esports center in the city.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner of the LA Times, announced plans to build “the Staples Center of esports” adjacent to the Times’ El Segundo headquarters in 2019, but construction never got underway, though his company did build a seven-acre lot near the El Segundo campus that hosts Epic Games’ L.A. production lab.

Hillary Manning, a spokeswoman for Soon-Shiong, told dot.LA the billionaire hasn’t totally abandoned plans for a stadium.

“The Soon-Shiongs remain interested and invested in esports and are still considering building an esports arena,” she said.

A rendering of the design of Glytch's esports arena, which it says will seat thousands.Credit: Glytch

Competition, Live and At Home

Paying for premium stadium real estate could be difficult if people fail to show up, and many in the esports world see venues as an unnecessary money suck, given that fans have become used to not watching in-person.

“The beauty of the sport is it clearly doesn't matter” where fans are, said Bruce Stein, former co-founder of esports organization Team Liquid. “It's a different kind of affinity and connection, and it works really best online… that means you have to adapt your business to it.”

The pandemic prompted a renewed interest in watching esports – the global fan base is set to grow nearly 9% annually to 532 million people by the end of this year, according to analysts at Newzoo.

The esports industry, which is on pace to rake in nearly $1.4 billion by the end of 2022, has been doing just fine without a concentrated network of in-person venues, especially because many tune in strictly online. Its unprecedented rise during the pandemic has been thanks mainly to lucrative sponsorship deals, which made up an estimated 60% of the entire market.

“A typical day for us would be like 4,000 people at our facility and 100,000 people online,” Williams speculated.

Reaching a broad audience is key to not going bankrupt when you’re a facility owner. One cautionary tale: OGN’s now defunct 35,000-square-foot esports arena.

The South Korean broadcast company moved into a Manhattan Beach arena in 2018 but couldn’t fill the seats.

“They couldn't book it enough and it didn't drive enough revenue and we shut it down,” said Greg Lovett, executive managing director of Cushman Wakefield’s L.A. realty office, who oversaw the deal while working at Cresa Partners.

“We had to sublease it to a production company,” he said, adding that OGN ultimately found that, unlike South Korea, U.S. gamers just weren’t used to going out to see live esports events.

Another example: Irvine’s now defunct Esports Arena. According to an insider, the property was built by a mall operator unfamiliar with the specifics of building a venue for hundreds or thousands of spectators. The arena quickly shut down because it couldn’t get enough fans through the doors each month to keep the lights on.

“An audience-rated facility is very expensive, and very difficult for permitting because of fire safety,” Lovett said. “If you go to the city today and say, ‘I want to build something like [an esports arena], that’s a mega-project,” he said, adding that retrofitting a building to be a stadium instead of custom construction is “almost impossible."

Glytch’s plans for an esports stadium differ from OGN’s and the Esports Arena’s in terms of scale: Glytch wants its first L.A. outpost to be part of a network of nationwide arenas that all feed into the esports fandom and prop up company revenue.

Williams said he thinks esports can succeed if it mirrors traditional sports, partly because that’s an ecosystem that regional fans – but perhaps more crucially, big-box advertisers with sponsorship cash to flex – are familiar with.

“We had the idea of, ‘Let's build these sports stadiums across America. If esports is the next NFL, then there ought to be stadiums,’” Williams said.

A rendering of the design of Glytch's esports arena, which it says will seat thousands.Credit: Glytch

If You Build It, Will They Come?

Still others in the industry see an opportunity for a forward-thinking company backed by investors with deep pockets and vision to build esports into an in-person event in the U.S. But much will depend on whether fans prove interested and venue operators are able to find sponsorship.

“Most esports organizations don’t own a stadium,” said Dominic Kallas, vice president of esports company TSM, which operates 12 teams from its base in Playa Vista.

Kallas said TSM’s focus is on sponsor deals, but he noted that it recently inked a $210 million naming rights deal with cryptocurrency exchange FTX in early June.

“You can stay profitable off of doing large deals like that” to offset pricier franchise or venue costs, Kallas said.

Williams told dot.LA that Glytch’s arenas will have to rake in at least $8 million across box office, merchandising and concessions in order to break even, but is targeting $10 million annually.

Others agreed that the potential is there, but say the model still hasn’t been created, in the U.S., at least.

“I think that there is a bigger demand, if people can figure out the programming side of it,” said Erik Anderson, head of esports for gaming group FaZe Clan.

“On our side, it's something that we find super interesting at a certain size, [but] when it goes over a certain size, it's no longer interesting and starts to become a burden… There's a certain size when experimenting is no longer an option, because it's too expensive,” Anderson said, adding that “1,000 seats might be too much in the current marketplace.”

Riot Games’ Esports Event Producer Daniel Lee said he thinks locality plays a role in esports, but isn’t convinced that means stadiums would play the same role as they do for other types of sports.

“I believe a city-based [team] will create fandom,” he said. “But traditional sports and esports are completely different beings,” he said, added.

Stein agreed.

“If you try to make it look the same, you're investing for the wrong reason. You may get much more out of it than traditional sports, but don't try to make it the same just because there's competition.”

For his part, Williams said he isn’t daunted by the prospect of building the stadiums along with the market for them.

“We hope that we can be the home team [stadium]” for all local esports teams, he said, adding “I hope the numbers in esports continue to grow, the way football has.”

As the industry transitions back into blockbuster events and in-person championship, will esports follow a trajectory that mirrors the NFL’s rise to its place as an intrinsic part of American sports culture? The answer may simply depend on who shows up.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the make-up of Glytch's founding team.

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Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable
Evan Xie

The original dream of streaming was all of the content you love, easily accessible on your TV or computer at any time, at a reasonable price. Sadly, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have come together over the last decade or so to recognize that this isn’t really economically viable. Instead, the streaming marketplace is slowly transforming into something approximating Cable Television But Online.

It’s very expensive to make the kinds of shows that generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement from global audiences that drives the growth of streaming platforms. For every international hit like “Squid Game” or “Money Heist,” Netflix produced dozens of other shows whose titles you have definitely forgotten about.

The marketplace for new TV has become so massively competitive, and the streaming landscape so oversaturated, even relatively popular shows with passionate fanbases that generate real enthusiasm and acclaim from critics often struggle to survive. Disney+ canceled Luscasfilm’s “Willow” after just one season this week, despite being based on a hit Ron Howard film and receiving an 83% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon dropped the mystery drama “Three Pines” after one season as well this week, which starred Alfred Molina, also received positive reviews, and is based on a popular series of detective novels.

Even the new season of “The Mandalorian” is off to a sluggish start compared to its previous two Disney+ seasons, and Pedro Pascal is basically the most popular person in America right now.

Now that major players like Netflix, Disney+, and WB Discovery’s HBO Max have entered most of the big international markets, and bombarded consumers there with marketing and promotional efforts, onboarding of new subscribers inevitably has slowed. Combine that with inflation and other economic concerns, and you have a recipe for austerity and belt-tightening among the big streamers that’s virtually guaranteed to turn the smorgasbord of Peak TV into a more conservative a la carte offering. Lots of stuff you like, sure, but in smaller portions.

While Netflix once made its famed billion-dollar mega-deals with top-name creators, now it balks when writer/director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday”) asks for $150 million to pay her cast of A-list actors. Her latest romantic comedy will likely move over to Warner Bros., which can open the film in theaters and hopefully recoup Scarlett Johansson and Michael Fassbender’s salaries rather than just spending the money and hoping it lingers longer in the public consciousness than “The Gray Man.”

CNET did the math last month and determined that it’s still cheaper to choose a few subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime over a conventional cable TV package by an average of about $30 per month (provided you don’t include the cost of internet service itself). But that means picking and choosing your favorite platforms, as once you start adding all the major offerings out there, the prices add up quickly. (And those are just the biggest services from major Hollywood studios and media companies, let alone smaller, more specialized offerings.) Any kind of cable replacement or live TV streaming platform makes the cost essentially comparable to an old-school cable TV package, around $100 a month or more.

So called FAST, or Free Ad-supported Streaming TV services, have become a popular alternative to paid streaming platforms, with Fox’s Tubi making its first-ever appearance on Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings just last month. (It’s now more popular than the first FAST service to appear on the chart, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV.) According to Nielsen, Tubi now accounts for around 1% of all TV viewing in the US, and its model of 24/7 themed channels supported by semi-frequent ad breaks couldn’t resemble cable television anymore if it tried.

Services like Tubi and Pluto stand to benefit significantly from the new streaming paradigm, and not just from fatigued consumers tired of paying for more content. Cast-off shows and films from bigger streamers like HBO Max often find their way to ad-supported platforms, where they can start bringing in revenue for their original studios and producers. The infamous HBO Max shows like “The Nevers” and “Westworld” that WBD controversially pulled from the HBO Max service can now be found on Tubi or The Roku Channel.

HBO Max’s recently-canceled reality dating series “FBoy Island” has also found a new home, but it’s not on any streaming platform. Season 3 will air on TV’s The CW, along with a new spinoff series called (wait for it) “FGirl Island.” So in at least some ways, “30 Rock” was right: technology really IS cyclical.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

Another day, another update in the unending saga that is the potential TikTok ban.

The latest: separate from the various bills proposing a ban, the Biden administration has been in talks with TikTok since September to try and find a solution. Now, having thrown its support behind Senator MarkWarner’s bill, the White House is demanding TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sell its stakes in the company to avoid a ban. This would be a major blow to the business, as TikTok alone is worth between $40 billion and $50 billion—a significant portion of ByteDance’s $220 billion value.

Clearly, TikTok faces an uphill battle as its CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. But other social media companies are likely looking forward to seeing their primary competitor go—and are positioning themselves as the best replacement for migrating users.


Last year, The Washington Post reported that Meta paid a consulting firm to plant negative stories about TikTok. Now, Meta is reaping the benefits of TikTok’s downfall, with its shares rising 3% after the White House told TikTok to leave ByteDance. But this initial boost means nothing if the company can’t entice creators and viewers to Instagram and Facebook. And it doesn’t look promising in that regard.

Having waffled between pushing its short-form videos, called Reels, and de-prioritizing them in the algorithm, Instagram announced last week that it would no longer offer monetary bonuses to creators making Reels. This might be because of TikTok’s imminent ban. After all, the program was initially meant to convince TikTok creators to use Instagram—an issue that won’t be as pressing if TikTok users have no choice but to find another platform.


Alternatively, Snap is doing the opposite and luring creators with an ad revenue-sharing program. First launched in 2022, creators are now actively boasting about big earnings from the program, which provides 50% of ad revenue from videos. Snapchat is clearly still trying to win over users with new tech like its OpenAI chatbot, which it launched last month. But it's best bet to woo the TikTok crowd is through its new Sounds features, which suggest audio for different lenses and will match montage videos to a song’s rhythm. Audio clips are crucial to TikTok’s platform, so focusing on integrating songs into content will likely appeal to users looking to recreate that experience.


With its short-form ad revenue-sharing program, YouTube Shorts has already lured over TikTok creators. It's even gotten major stars like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift to promote music on Shorts. This is likely where YouTube has the best bet of taking TikTok’s audience. Since TikTok has become deeply intertwined with the music industry, Shorts might be primed to take its spot. And with its new feature that creates compiles all the videos using a specific song, Shorts is likely hoping to capture musicians looking to promote their work.


The most blatant attempt at seducing TikTok users, however, comes from Triller, which launched a portal for people to move their videos from TikTok to its platform. It’s simple, but likely the most effective tactic—and one that other short-form video platforms should try to replicate. With TikTok users worried about losing their backlog of content, this not only lets users archive but also bolsters Triller’s content offerings. The problem, of course, is that Triller isn’t nearly as well known as the other platforms also trying to capture TikTok users. Still, those who are in the know will likely find this option easier than manually re-uploading content to other sites.

It's likely that many of these platforms will see a momentary boost if the TikTok ban goes through. But all of these companies need to ensure that users coming from TikTok actually stay on their platforms. Considering that they have already been upended by one newcomer when TikTok took over, there’s good reason to believe that a new app could come in and swoop up TikTok’s user base. As of right now, it's unclear who will come out on top. But the true loser is the user who has to adhere to the everyday whims of each of these platforms.

We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said
Evan Xie

According to Pew Research data, 27% of Americans interact with AI on a daily basis. With the launch of Open AI’s latest language model GPT-4, we asked our readers how they use AI in a professional capacity. Here’s what they told us:

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