Riot scores 113M dollar deal with Bilibili as Tencent tightens grip on all esports broadcasts
Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends and Valorant scored a major broadcasting deal with Bilibili Inc, one of China’s biggest video streaming platforms. Both companies have their majority stake owned by Tencent the largest gaming conglomerate on the planet.
Tencent fully owns Riot Games and has become the majority stakeholder in Bilibili as well as competitors Huya and DouYu. The deal, while big also illustrates Tencent’s long term plan about esports streaming and which platforms get priority in which industry.
Bilibili and the Riot Games deal
Bilibili (B-Site) is a video-sharing platform specializing in games and animated content. It has diversified over the years to host various types of content, and even re-share Youtube content on the platform. With over 31 million registered users, it’s one of the three large competitors in the video game streaming in China.
The Bilibili/Riot broadcasting deal was hinted all the way back in December of 2019. Allegedly, a bidding war took place between DouYu, Huya, Bilibili and Kuaishou. In the end, exclusive broadcasting rights for three of the biggest LoL events have gone to Bilibili.
To celebrate the deal and the 10-year LoL anniversary, there will also be a small series of offline events held across China. This includes documentaries and things like watch parties and fan engagement events. All of this will be taking place this October.
Carly Lee, Vice Chairwoman and COO of Bilibili stated:
“We are excited to reach this strategic partnership with Riot Games. Throughout the past decade, we have witnessed the development of the esports industry from a niche market to a mainstream one that is now one of the most popular sports among young people in China. The number of views of esports videos on Bilibili reached 44 billion in 2019. Bilibili will take this opportunity and help Shanghai build its leadership position in the global esports industry.”
Is Tencent deciding who streams which esport?
We already mentioned at the start that both Riot Games and Bilibili are owned or majority-owned by Tencent. Additionally, Tencent also owns a controlling stake in competitors Huya (50.1%) and DouYu (40.1%). Earlier this year, Tencent has exercised their power with the assignment of new directors on the boards of both companies. When it comes to Bilibili, Tencent owns an 18% stake in the company and is currently the biggest shareholder.
After the recent Riot and the DreamHack/ESL/Douyu/Huya deals, the question became: “Is the gaming behemoth now slowly deciding which platform specializes in which esport?”
First up, Huya has acquired the rights to broadcast the ESL’s CS:GO Pro Tour and Dota 2 tournaments exclusively on their platform. Liga Pro Gaming’s Dota 2 tournaments are also exclusive on Huya together with League of Legends LEC, LCS and LCK.
DouYu is now the exclusive streaming partner for the ESL Pro Tour in Warcraft III and StarCraft II. They also hold the rights to all BLAST Premier CS:GO broadcasts.
Finally, Bilibili became the strategic partner of Riot Games for LoL Worlds, MSI, All-Star all the way through to 2023.
Seems like a neat little division between the largest three “competitors”, especially if you have your tinfoil hat on. Over the past year, Tencent has “united” three live streaming businesses (Douyu, Huya & eGame) into its Interactive Entertainment Group (IEG) in order to stop rivalry and better coordinate the efforts of all three platforms. The new Bilibili deal is likely an entry toward slowly acquiring a larger stake in the company long.
Once Tencent unifies Douyu, Huya and Bilibili under IEG, they will likely have complete control over all esports and video gaming broadcasts in China. This will also curb any ambition that Kuaishou, Bytedance or any new competitor have at entering that market in China.