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RUMOR: Riot Games in Talks with MLBAM?

November 18, 2016 - Esports

Together with revenue sharing, the next biggest criticism hurled Riot Games’ way is their unwillingness to sell broadcast rights to the LCS. Over the last 48 hours, a story broke out about the possibility, that Riot Games might be in talks with a subsidiary of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, BAM Tech, to sell the rights to stream League of Legends events exclusively for $90,000,000, if an article by dotesports.com’s Connor Smith is to be believed.

If the deal comes through, League of Legends might drop their event broadcasts from Twitch.tv and YouTube, going for a subscription or pay-per-view model, similar to Netflix or WWE. If that was to happen, League would probably actually make money from its eSports side, however, the overall viewership would be likely to drop, because not every player who watches LoL matches now would be willing to pay for that right in the future.

Even if the deal was signed, it’s hard to imagine that League wouldn’t be streamed on Twitch. Yes, it makes sense for the Split Playoffs to be broadcast on another platform, monetized similarly to the pay-per-view of the WWE, for example, however, even wrestling has Monday Night RAW to draw viewers into their PPV. The Summer and Spring Splits could act in a similar manner. Maybe broadcast on the new League of Legends platform, but still free. A question remains. How many people just watch League events because they were browsing Twitch and found the match that way? Quite a lot, I imagine. If the service resulting in Riot’s partnership with MLBAM will be the only way to watch League of Legends, these viewers will be lost. Then again, Riot will just happily laugh while the true fans of LoL eSports pay a subscription and the others move on to something else. 100,000 people watching the event for free is worse than 10,000, who pay $7.99 every month for it.

All of this is just speculation with some evidence covered by Richard Lewis and an article on sportsbusinessdaily.com by Ben Fischer and Eric Fisher. It may turn out to be true, it might not. If it turns out to be true, it’s likely to change the eSports landscape in the future, just like the Overwatch League will, if that one is successful. We can speculate until we’re blue in the face; however, what will happen will happen. After it does, THEN it will be our turn to react to the new situation and either do what we need to do to watch League of Legends or move to another game.