Riot Games, known for its “League of Legends” game, has reached a deal with Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media tech unit to sell its streaming rights for close to $200 million over two years.
A story in the Los Angeles Times reported that the deal, first reported by Richard Lewis and Sports Business Daily, would see Riot Games streams move from its current services on Twitch and YouTube to an app developed by MLBAM’s BAMTech. MLB has a majority stake in the company.
Riot Games hosts a wildly popular annual global competition for the 5-on-5 battle game, played by more than 100 million people each month. Top teams advance to the playoffs, which boasts millions of dollars in prize money.
"This could be a groundbreaking moment,” said Jeff Marks, of Premier Ventures, which advises on sports deals.
There was no comment from Riot Games, or MLBAM regarding the deal.
Riot Games has been trying to land a major media rights deal, which has been closely followed in the rapidly growing eSports industry. This may show a willingness by major companies to legitimize eSports and show that they have the ability to generate profits.
BAMTech also develops streaming apps for the NHL, PGA and WWE, giving yet more legitimacy to the deal and the growth of the eSports.
“Considering Riot's aggressive strategy of vertical integration to better the user experience — they built their own internet backbone to improve latency — having their own channel, and thereby reducing their reliance on Twitch, is a solid decision,” said Joost van Dreunen, chief executive of SuperData Research, in the LA Times story.
It is currently unclear whether the app’s users would have to purchase a subscription, but Riot Games could offer a fee-based option for exclusive content. And as of now, advertising options are still up in the air, though there is certainly demand for it, especially after the new deal.