Winter just got colder for some X Games and Winter X Games fans around the world. ESPN has officially sold its majority interest in its legendary X Games brand on October 26. The X Games and Winter X Games are known for displaying action sports not likely to be displayed on other networks, including snowboarding and skateboarding. The Winter X Games were created in 1995 when ESPN decided to appeal to a broader audience and to propel snowboarding, skateboarding, and other action sports into the mainstream of popular sports. The initial name was “Extreme Games” that focused specifically on skateboarding but was later changed in 1997 to include winter games.
Although rumors have been circulating for years, ESPN officially sold its controlling stake to MSP Sports Capital for an undisclosed amount. MSP Sports Capital is a private equity firm that also has stakes in McLaren Racing and other soccer teams around the world. All is not lost for ESPN, however, as they will remain a minority partner in the X Games events, as well as continue broadcasting the games. The sale to MSP Sports Capital simply means that ESPN will no longer be in charge of the organization side of the X Games and Winter X Games.
With MSP Sports Capital now owning the controlling amount of shares, it means that the private entity will now be in charge of building courses for the X Games, finding judges for each action sport, scheduling, hiring, and taking care of athlete health and safety. The new controlling company now has exclusive rights to control production of the games, the digital offerings of the games, and advertising and marketing of the games, in which they are expected to create content that is more tailored to a younger generation. The new controlling company of the X Games has also appointed a new CEO of the X Games, Steve Flisler. Prior to becoming the CEO, Flisler was an executive at a streaming service that is best known for live streaming of video games – something that could be seen at or during future X Games.
What will be most interesting about MSP Sports Capital becoming the majority owner of the X Games is how the new CEO will handle its employee retention. With such a different vision for the X Games and without any information being provided to the public about the details of the sale, one might think that the new CEO will not have a need for its over 1,000 employees that the X Games currently employs. On the other hand, with the reshaping of the digital offerings for the X Games, the new CEO might need an even larger employee base. Whatever Flisler decides, those that are into the world of sports and anticipating the next airing of the Winter X Games this upcoming January will hopefully be in for a treat.