UPDATE: May 23 17:00–Riot Games and ESPN have individually denied that they are in talks over broadcast rights.
“The story is inaccurate — no active talks with ESPN at the moment,” the Riot spokesperson said.
An ESPN spokesperson further confirmed, “The story is false. We do not have a deal with Riot Games to broadcast League of Legends.”
The unprecedented purchase figure is $500 million, according to “sources close to the situation.”
Almost no further details are available at the moment. Riot currently has broadcasting agreements in place with several online streaming platforms such as Twitch and Yahoo, but this would be the first major TV broadcast for League of Legends content.
LCS is a major audience and sponsor draw
The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) is sponsored by American Express Serve, Coke Zero, Logitech G and Plantronics Gaming. The quality of the sponsorship LCS has attracted is one reason to believe that ESPN’s interest is serious.
The LCS is split into North American and European leagues, each with ten teams playing against each other twice during the season. Play is further split into two seasons, Spring and Summer.
Teams earn points which go towards selection for the combined “Worlds” competition.
Every October, the Worlds event brings together teams from all around the globe. The best teams from China, Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau, North America, and Europe are directly invited, while an International Wildcard Tournament provides places for two teams from other regions.
It could be that ESPN’s initial interest will be only in the North American league, but the global reach of the World’s competition must also be attractive.
ELeague broadcasting begins today
Mainstream broadcasting of esports competitions is beginning to take off. Only a month ago, ESL announced its own broadcast tie-up with MTG’s Viasat platform (Swedish company MTG owns ESL).
Broadcast will reach viewers in Africa, Asia, China, France, Germany, Latin America, the Netherlands, Nordics, Poland, Portugal and Russia, as well as the U.S.
“ELEAGUE is a global competition showcasing some of the best teams around the world and we’re committed to providing best-in-class coverage across all platforms in all countries,” said Craig Barry, EVP and chief content officer of Turner Sports. “This global approach to distributing eSports content is reflective of the worldwide community that so passionately supports it.”
The ELeague will also be broadcast on Twitch after the companies signed a multi-year distribution agreement on May 20.
The Friday night weekly showcase on TBS will be broadcast simultaneously with a Twitch stream showing a “best-of-three” weekly finale.
Christina Alejandre, general manager of ELEAGUE said:
“We’re incredibly excited for the launch of ELEAGUE and Twitch provides us with a premier destination for fans to congregate and engage with our live event coverage.”
CS:GO and League of Legends are two of the top esports games. For Riot Games, the deal with ESPN makes sense as a way of ensuring that the Turner broadcasts don’t take the limelight away from its League of Legends events.