Competitive League of Legends eSports are about to get kicked up a notch as BAMTech, previously part of Major League Baseball’s MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), Disney-owned streaming tech company, signs a deal with Riot Games for the rights to League of Legends tournaments. The business acquisition is a ‘monolith moment’ for the traditional sports landscape, but how will it alter the viewing experience of one of the giants within the world of eSports? Here’s everything you need to know:
After a year of rumours and speculation that ESPN were set to invest hundreds of millions to acquire League of Legends’ broadcasting rights, the Disney-owned company appear to have finally made their big leap. The overview of the deal is that BAMTech will “pay a minimum $300 million through 2023” to Riot Games. in return for exclusive rights to “stream and monetise” the game.
BAMTech intends to launch a League of Legends streaming service application for smartphones, PCs and other devices, whilst also handling distribution on existing streaming portals like Twitch and YouTube Gaming. Rather than manhandling the broadcasting rights as was initially suspected, ESPN – also owned by Disney – is conveniently set to launch a streaming service ready for sports that don’t air on its traditional cable channels… a perfect home for the League of Legends tournaments you might think.
The deal left a number of die-hard League of Legends fans confused as to how Disney’s influence would affect the eSports’ viewing experience, an issue which Riot Games were understandably keen to clarify for their audience. In essence, the major change will be advertisements.
BAMTech’s streaming architecture is particularly robust and polished, widely regarded as one of the best providers in the industry. Fans can expect (even) better quality streams and user experiences.
Though no savvy eSports fan is happy to be bludgeoned by adverts, in reality it was only a matter of time until advertising was introduced to LCS streams – advertising presents the largest potential for revenue growth. Importantly, the ads will be unavoidable, Adblocking software will not work.
“Will be straight with you guys – there will be ads. There will be integrated sponsorships as well (like Acer over Worlds and All-Stars).
“That’s the price of having a sustainable sport, and one we think is worth it. We have the “commercial / music” break (even though there aren’t always ads to run) between segments because we knew this would be the case even when we started the LCS back in 2013.”
Whalen Rozelle, Riot Games’ Director of eSports
Perhaps most importantly from a viewer perspective, every League of Legends event broadcast will continue to be free to view:
“The current experience we have today is and will continue to be free.”
The opportunity does exist however, to introduce premium features further down the pipeline:
“There’s a world where we create a new viewing experience or feature that is mega expensive to do and is targeted at a small group of fans – in that case it might make sense to explore premium as an option.”
Riot Games’ deal with BAMTech is similar to that seen within the traditional video game publishing industry, in the sense that the $300 million can be considered as an advance, rather than a direct payment.
The initial revenue will go to BAMTech to cover the investment, but any takings beyond that will be shared with Riot Games at an unspecified rate. The deal could potentially be worth far more than $300 million if the partnership goes well, as the broadcasts push for more partners and sponsorship – a win-win for all parties involved.