About Bill Kenney
Underscore Talent has expanded its gaming division, picking up a group of leading gamers and esports players specializing in various games, including Dota 2, Call of Duty, and Valorant. The esports players and gaming creators joining Underscore Talent’s roster include CDawgVA, Trash Taste, s0m, Shotzzy, Arteezy, and ShivFPS. They represent the top tier for their respective games, and many are world champions and major esports competitors globally.
Today, we’re speaking with Bill Kenney, Partner and Co-Head of Gaming and Esports at Underscore Talent, about the gaming division expansion, why it was needed, and the current state of the gaming industry.
Bill has over ten years of experience in business development, licensing, digital media, and talent management. He is a Boston native who attended Chapman University and started his career at Relativity Media, where he worked his way up to Director of Business Development. Today, he is the Partner and Co-Head of Gaming and Esports at Underscore Talent, ≈ a next-generation management company helping talent leverage the “attention economy” and create long-lasting, sustainable careers in the creator and talent industries.
The Inspiration Behind Expanding the Gaming Division
The Co-Founders of Underscore Talent, Reza Izad and Dan Weinstein, have the vision to be one of the top digital management companies globally. Part of this vision includes an expanded gaming division.
Bill Kenney shares, “It’s tough to have that vision without a gaming department. We see how much money is being spent from a publisher perspective, from a brand dollar perspective, and also from a team contract perspective. There’s a lot of upsides to having a gaming business.”
Signed Esports Players and Gaming Creators
As part of this expansion, esports players and gaming creators CDawgVA, Trash Taste, s0m, Shotzzy, Arteezy, and ShivFPS signed with Underscore Talent.
Bill adds, “We tried to touch upon a variety of games and really go after the 5%… Anytime a game publisher invests this much effort and money into a league is always exciting. It’s important for us to continue to diversify our roster with clients who are interested in playing a variety of games”
Shotzzy is one of the world’s top Call Of Duty esports players and a 2020 Call of Duty World Champion.
Artezzy is a professional Canadian Dota 2 player and is one of the most popular streamers in the Dota 2 community.
ShivFPS is a renowned Apex Legends gamer and content creator with Luminosity Gaming, and player Sam “sOm” is a 20-year-old Valorant player competing in the NRG esports organization.
CDawgVA is a Welsh gaming and anime YouTuber, podcaster, and voice actor based in Tokyo.
Lastly, Trash Taste is a premiere anime podcast discussing manga, anime, and otaku culture. Each member of the Trash Taste podcast is a popular anime YouTuber in their own right: Joey from The Anime Man, Garnt from Gigguk, and Connor from Cdawgva.
Bill Kenney explains, “We want to be the top management company in gaming. We want people to know our names and recognize us for the work that we’ve done. One of our biggest accomplishments was bringing Oakley into the gaming space and expanding that relationship. I’ve worked with Turtle Wax in the space as well. Anytime you can take a brick-and-mortar brand and introduce them to gaming with a strategy that makes sense and can hit on their KPIs is an exciting moment.”
The Current State of the Gaming Industry
Bill Kenney shares that the gaming industry has exploded. The industry has been on its way up for years, but Twitch and other gaming companies exploded during 2020 when more people were spending time at home.
He adds, “I don’t want to say we’re recession-proof, but we’re the closest to it. We’ve just seen an uptick in opportunities for gamers. We haven’t really seen any decrease in revenue across the board, and we’ve seen just more opportunities and other brick-and-mortar brands that don’t spend in the space, start to spend in the space.”
One of the biggest trends and innovations in the gaming industry is the continued growth of live streaming. Fans can stream their favorite games 24/7, and gamers can access their fan base directly using live streaming.
Bill Kenney explains, “It’s forever changing. Coming from traditional entertainment, it was set in stone for a while on how they choose their movies and how they go about making movies, but with gaming, it’s changing every single day. There’s something new coming up every day.”
For example, creators like CodeMiko own their technology and have even created a 3D live stream avatar, which many people have not seen elsewhere. These advancements in technology allow viewers to connect more closely with the creator and have more of a ‘real life’ experience, bonding fans and creators in new ways.
In the future, Bill would love to see an uptake in female creators in the gaming industry, especially professional female gamers.
Upcoming Plans for Underscore Talent
Bill Kenney shares, “We’ve got a big ambition to invest and partner with our clients to create products around their brands… We want to be more active with products within our talent, and we’re taking meaningful steps for that. We see the numbers. We know what people do as far as revenue goes around certain products, so why not have the talent have an ownership stake in that product?”
Underscore Talent plans to continue expanding its roster by signing the best-in-class talent and helping them cultivate sustainable, long-lasting careers.