Activision Blizzard launches movie, TV studio

Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing on stage at the introduction of the All-New Guitar Hero Live game by Activision, April 14, 2015, in New York City.
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Activision Blizzard is headed to Hollywood.

The video game company on Friday introduced Activision Blizzard Studios, which will create original content — movies, TV, and short form videos — based on its game titles. It's hired former Disney executive Nick van Dyk to co-head the division. The company said the name of another Hollywood veteran to run it with him will be announced soon.

The studio's first production will be "Skylanders Academy," an animated show based on the game franchise, which has $3 billion in retail sales, including more than 250 million action figures. The company is also working on movies built on its "Call of Duty" franchise, saying it also sees the potential to bring the brand into television.

In a presentation to investors at its shareholder day, Van Dyk explained that the company is not looking to be in the traditional Hollywood "hit" business, which is risky, but rather to be in the more predictable franchise/intellectual property business. And the idea is for the impact of the content to create a virtuous cycle: broaden the appeal of the intellectual property to a bigger audience, broaden the engagement outside the confines of video game playing, and strengthen the power of the franchises.

And now the company has an even broader range of intellectual property to bring to the big screen: Earlier this week, it announced it's acquiring "Candy Crush"-maker King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion.

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Riccardo Zacconi, chair of King.
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Activision Blizzard is also launching the latest installment in its mega franchise — "Call of Duty: Black Ops III" — to a fan base of more than 100 million gamers. In addition to its shareholder meeting, it's hosting 25,000 gamers for BlizzCon, its annual video game convention and competition, where matches for four different video games — with over $1 million in prize money — will determine the world champions.

BlizzCon is a foothold in the massive and growing business of eSports, which Activision is also investing in. Last month the company announced a new eSports league, tapping the former CEO of ESPN and the NFL network to run it.