Viewership in the EU LCS is not what it once was, nor is it as easy to measure. The wide array of broadcast languages, stream hosts and channels have muddied the waters, but it is widely accepted that Europe’s viewership figures are falling short of those in North America.
The EU LCS has long-since prided itself on presenting a superior quality of League of Legends to their cousins across the pacific.
With a World Championship to its name and a long-standing history of international success (at least when compared to NA), in addition to the combined population of every European nation to draw from as an audience, the EU LCS has all the means to be the dominant Western League of Legends eSports broadcast. It is a potential that the region is failing to live up to.
A lack of personalities and inconvenient scheduling have both been highlighted as potential causes for a decline in interest surrounding the EU LCS, but perhaps the greater issue lies with how clinically clean-cut the league has become.
Every league will be able to differentiate between its top and bottom tier teams, as clearly as the contrast between black and white. Within the context of the EU LCS for example, Fnatic would be expected to dispatch Mysterious Monkeys and Ninjas in Pyjamas ten times out of ten.
Within traditional sports leagues, it is the large swathes of grey areas that bring an element of excitement to every game; the prospect of a giant killing, a snatch and grab victory… it’s a joy the EU LCS simply does not offer.
The best teams in EU are stuck in a cycle of clean-sweeping challenger-level opposition until the next heavyweight matchup swings around.
In a theoretical schedule, Fnatic vs G2 eSports is guaranteed to attract a wealth of interest, fan support and viewership. By contrast however, the subsequent series between Unicorns of Love and Mysterious Monkeys will fail to retain these numbers; the outcome is all too predictable.
This is a phenomenon less common in the NA LCS, in which the distinctions between the league’s best and worst teams are far more blurred.
Though it should be concerning to North American fans that their heavyweight organisations are more than capable of dropping games against weaker opposition, for a neutral, the constant prospect of an upset does at least make for entertaining viewing.
League of Legends’ eSports scene is becoming increasingly driven by narratives, an area in which North America excels, despite Europe’s superior record for success.
The obvious disparity in team quality is making European League of Legends less interesting to watch than its North American counterpart. It should come as no surprise that Riot Games opted to implement franchising within the North American region first, given that the NA LCS is in a state where it would remain competitive even with the current cohort of teams locked in.
A healthy, ‘franchisable’ league does not contain organisations that permanently occupy the bottom slots and struggle to produce a competitive roster.
Currently, the clinically clean-cut divide between the EU LCS’s top and bottom tiers has resulted in a fixture list in which, sadly, only half of the games are worth watching.