The NA LCS partners with ESPN+ and BAMTech deal falls through
On May 25, Riot Games announced a new partnership with ESPN. The deal aims to include the NA LCS into the ESPN+ service, starting from the 2018 Summer Split. If you don’t know what that means, ESPN is basically going to put the biggest North American League of Legends competition onto its live streaming platform. Keep in mind that this is a paid feature, so anyone that wants to tune into ESPN+ broadcasts will have to pay $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year.
According to Riot Games, this agreement won’t affect the existing Twitch and YouTube streams, so seasoned LoL esports viewers shouldn’t be worried about this development. However, it does have the potential to introduce new fans to the game, effectively merging esports with traditional sports audiences. Now, this sounds like a huge step forward for League of Legends.
And yet it isn’t!
In fact, we’d argue that the ESPN+ deal set the game back because it canceled out another important agreement. The BAMTech deal. It’s easy to forget this, but almost 18 months ago, Riot Games arranged a $350 million partnership with BAMTech, the company behind Major League Baseball. The deal was considered record-breaking at the time, and it was supposed to grant BAMTech exclusive rights to stream and monetize all League of Legends competitions. Moreover, it was meant to bring a dedicated streaming app to the viewers, and provide ample monetary support to the scene.
But ever since the initial announcement, there was only radio silence on the BAMTech front. Now, it’s clear this lack of coverage was caused by the simple fact that there was nothing to talk about. The deal fell through. The main reason likely has to do with Disney acquiring a 75% share of the BAMTech company, although Riot’s change of leadership (i.e. Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill stepping down from positions of authority) could’ve also affected the negotiations.
Whatever the case, BAMTech is now a thing of the past. And $350 million that was supposed to come with it is nowhere to be seen. This is a huge blow to the League of Legends scene, especially when you consider that the ESPN+ agreement doesn’t seem to be nearly as beneficial. In fact, there’s close to zero information on the new multiyear deal. With that in mind, it’s hard not to think that LoL esports lost a lot of momentum without gaining anything in return.