Undisputedly the greatest team to ever compete within League of Legends eSports, South Korea’s SK Telecom T1 have been rightfully placed on a pedestal by the game’s community. With the all-star roster recently moving over to the Twitch streaming platform, hundreds of thousands of fans from across the globe have tuned in to see some of the world’s best players in action. Shamefully however, the organisation responsible for broadcasting the World Champions across platforms have sought to restrict and enslave the SKT stars’ streams.
When SK Telecom T1 announced their decision to host player streams on Twitch, their statement was treated as a blessing by the League of Legends community. Whilst fans had seen them dominating the rift in consecutive World Championships, it was the first time they were going to be granted cherished insights into the SKT practice environment; an opportunity to see the players interact with their teammates and fanbase, whilst developing their skills.
Sceptics were unsure how well the sheltered pros would be able to handle the onslaught of the infamous “Twitch chat” and the ever-watchful eyes of their critical viewers. But as should have been expected, the SK Telecom T1 stars all proved to be natural streamers. For entertainment value they couldn’t be beat:
The honeymoon period of SKT on Twitch did not last long however. Kongdoo Company, an organisation responsible for managing a number of Korean eSports and streaming personalities, quickly cemented an official agreement with SKT T1 to provide aid to their streaming setup and quickly began imposing their ideals on the team.
When the SKT T1 members initially started to stream on Twitch, their respective streams were marred with a number of issues directly correlated to Kongdoo’s influence. The organisation prevented fans from directly interacting with the players, a primary USP of the Twitch streaming experience. This major concern, coupled with video and sound quality problems, resulted in the distributor issuing a public statement of apology.
Kongdoo Company gave their word that they wouldn’t meddle with the stream setup, yet their promise did not hold weight. The organisations’ assurances now count for nothing, as a new regime of regulations were imposed on the SKT players streams.
SK Telecom T1’s player streams are now the worst they have ever been: over-regulated and enslaving. Poor video quality and audio quality aside, the popular players are now being forced to hide donation messages and are banned from interacting with their live chat. Perhaps what is worse, in order to meet the requirements of their team streaming contract, the players are finding themselves chained to their computers well past midnight to fulfil their obligations; even the night before a match day.
Jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho described on stream that he couldn’t go to bed (even if he wanted to) because of the contract hours he needed to meet. The former ROX Tigers man was forced to stream until after midnight, just hours before the team’s next competitive LCK match:
“I have to stream no matter what because of the schedule”
Han “Peanut” Wang-ho
Similarly, Top laner Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon – renowned as a playful character who enjoys engaging with fans – was told in no uncertain terms on stream that he was to hide his chat and not to interact with his audience. Whilst having a contracted number of hours to stream isn’t necessarily anything new, it is clear from both Huni and Peanut’s reactions that they were completely oblivious to the deal signed between the SK Telecom T1 management and Kongdoo Company. The entire roster have had their rights as streamers signed away; they are now slaves to Kongdoo Company’s demands.
The Korean streaming company is desperately seeking to appease the massive audience of Chinese League of Legends fans, willing to alienate the entire western Twitch audience and extort the players themselves in the process. It is understood that a large part of the decision making process to remove chat interactions and donations, was a direct result of feedback from the Chinese community.
All the joy has been sucked out the highly-anticipated SKT player streams; nearly every aspect that made the broadcasts personal and unique has been quashed in order to pander to the Chinese audience. Confined to grinding solo queue in silence, chained to their computers until their contractual hourly obligations are completed, the attitude of the stars towards their stream is now that of a thankless chore, rather than an opportunity to relax.
Kongdoo Company are single handedly destroying the charm of the SKT streams. The company’s hollow apology simply serves as a veil while the organisation look to squeeze the World Championship brand for every drop of value they have in China.
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