UPDATE: News of a deal has been denied by both ESPN and Riot Games.
eSports is about to get a shot in the arm according to PVPLive’s Dustin Steiner after he broke the story that ESPN and Riot Games are in $500m talks to air the League of Legends Championship Series.
ESPN and Riot Games are in talks to secure TV rights to air the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS).
The news will spread like syphilis in a 1490s French military camp and the first person to break it was Dustin Steiner over at PVPLive. According to Steiner, ‘sources close to the situation’ dropped the bombshell. He is unsure if that $500m price tag only covers TV rights or the entire spectrum of online broadcasts. He is also unsure if the deal includes the European coverage or just North America. But who the hell cares. It’s news. It’s big news.
And there is a good reason why ESPN will want to get their hands on the LCS. According to the number crunchers over at Gamoloco, LCS weekly viewers during the spring action increased by 11.7% year-on-year with 22.8 million hours devoured by League of Legends (LOL) fans.
It’s been a huge year for Riot Games starting out with the deal that saw China’s Tencent Games acquire full control of the American gaming giant. Tencent Gaming also owns a chunk of Activision Blizzard and Epic Games.
If the rumours are true, then this will be a huge deal within the eSports community. While I doubt many people within the corridors of power at Riot or Tencent believe television is the future of broadcasting, $500m is a lot of money to be invested back into the community. It also sets a precedent for other major titles such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
As Anyone Told The Skipper?
I wonder if the negotiating committee has sought the nod from ESPN President & Chairman of Disney Media Networks, John Skipper?
In 2014, at the time Amazon was paying out top dollar to purchase Twitch, someone asked Skipper for his opinion on the rise of eSports to which he replied.
“It’s not a sport — it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition….Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.”
Fortunately, one of the positive traits of all successful men and women is the ability change one’s opinion rather rapidly.
The $500m deal does allow eSports to move up one extra rung of the ladder during their climb towards recognition as a bona fide sport. ESPN paid $7.3 billion spread over a 12-year period for the College Football coverage coming in at $608m per year.
The deal is also excellent news for a betting industry that’s sinking its teeth deeper and deeper into the world of eSports each week. There are already 70-80 betting outfits offering lines for eSports competitions, and once ESPN starts broadcasting coverage on a regular business, this number will grow even higher.