Report Suggests that ESPN and Riot Games are in Talks for LCS TV Broadcast Deal
With the explosion in popularity of eSports viewership worldwide, people have been wondering if eSports will make the jump to TV. We’ve seen ESPN take an interest in major eSports competitions of late with broadcasts of The International and Heroes of the Dorm on ESPN2 with the League of Legends World Championship streamed on ESPN3 along with a newly-founded eSports news division.
Now, a report from PVP Live suggests that ESPN’s presence in the eSports community could expand. They’re reporting that Riot Games and ESPN have been talking about a TV broadcast deal for LCS.
The report says that talks between Riot and ESPN are negotiating a deal for the TV rights to the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) with a value in the range of $500 million.
The problem with the report is that details are minimal at best. Reporter Dustin Steiner admits that the information disclosed by PVP Live’s sources do not note what impact this would have on streaming deals with the likes of Twitch and Azubu. They also don’t know if this deal would only be for the North American LCS or if the European LCS would be included in the deal. I should note that the story doesn’t mention the length of the deal that $500 million would buy ESPN but it’s probably several years.
GameSpot reached out to ESPN and Riot for comment. Both denied the reports but in different ways. Riot said that there were “no active talks with ESPN” while ESPN said that they “do not have a deal with Riot Games to broadcast League of Legends.” It’s a little beyond the usual non-denial denial but there no denial that negotiations between the two took place at some point. It’s also not unusual for there to be denials until a deal is ready to announce.
ESPN’s reported interest in broadcasting LCS comes just as TBS’s Counter-Strike: GO eLeague kicks off action today. That will be broadcast on a mix of Twitch stream for Tuesday through Thursday matches and TBS cable broadcast for the Friday night group finals.
Generally, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. So that begs the question what ESPN see in LCS that they discussed broadcasting it with Riot. Granted, it could be a TBS eLeague setup where most of the matches could be streamed with a limited number of games making it to cable. It wouldn’t make sense to broadcast it solely on ESPN3/WatchESPN with a deal this size. One would also wonder if the LCS’s Summer Split experiment with Best-of-2 and Best-of-3 matchups might coincide with the potential for a new broadcast deal.
League of Legends is currently the biggest eSport in the world with LCS weekly viewership in excess of 22 million hours watched (up 11.7% from the 2015 spring split). Someone is going to find a way to monetize this outside of online streaming. I’d imagine that it could be pretty lucrative if they can get the audience to follow them to cable. We’ll have to see how well TBS does with that this week.