Riot Games has confirmed that they are shopping around for a single platform to exclusively stream League of Legends esports events in English. While this is not unusual for most professional sports, this is new ground for the world of esports.
Reporter Adam Stern confirmed this with Riot Games just yesterday. According to Stern, Riot Games is “evaluating a number of options for our various rights packages.”
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) November 11, 2020
Travis Gafford added that Riot is “exploring an exclusive broadcast media rights deal for all English broadcasts.” This would not only include all North American events — it would include all League of Legends esports in the English language.
Riot has confirmed they're exploring an exclusive broadcast media rights deal for all English broadcasts – sources say Endeavor has been tasked with taking the rights to market pic.twitter.com/ZwPINhm38g
— Travis Gafford (@TravisGafford) November 12, 2020
This won’t be the first time Riot has sold streaming language rights to one platform. In August of this year, they signed a three-year deal with Bilibili for the Chinese streaming rights. And that was only for the World Championship, Mid-Season Invitational, and All-Star Event.
One streaming platform to rule them all
While, yes, this is about money for Riot Games, it’s also about providing streaming stability. For example, looking at football, you know that Fox broadcasts all NFC games and CBS broadcasts all AFC games. When the conferences overlap, viewers will have to look up which channel the games are on. But for the most part, fans already know where to find these games. By applying this same concept to esports, fans will always know exactly where to view any and all League of Legends esports events in English.
The two biggest contenders for LoL streaming rights are YouTube and Twitch. Both venues have been signing exclusivity deals for streamers like it’s going out of style. YouTube also already has experience with exclusive broadcasting deals with esports. Thanks to its partnership with Activision, YouTube has exclusive rights for the Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, and Hearthstone esports. Twitch doesn’t have any of these esports broadcast deals, but considering the numbers they recently had with Worlds (3.9 million people at peak), it won’t let this opportunity go without a fight.
But don’t count other platforms out of the race. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook threw billions of dollars at Riot Games for these rights, as it is constantly pushing its way into into both the gaming and content-viewing markets.
Get your popcorn ready, that’s for sure.