Sources close to the situation have informed PVP Live that ESPN is in talks to purchase television broadcast rights of League of Legends content from Riot Games for an estimated $500 million.
This amount of money for broadcast rights is unprecedented in esports, but not all that uncommon for ESPN in the traditional sports market. They paid $7.3 billion for broadcast rights for 12 years worth of College Football Playoff games, as well as bowl games in the hosting rotation that are not hosting that year. That’s $608 million annually for six games per year.
It is unclear at present if this will affect any of Riot’s current broadcasting agreements with Twitch, Yahoo, Azubu and other online streaming platforms, or the timeframe that the deal would encompass.
It’s also not yet known if these talks are only for North American LCS broadcasts, or if it would apply to Europe as well.
Weekly average viewing time for the LCS is enormous, clocking in at 22.8 million hours consumed, according to research firm Gamoloco. That’s an increase of 11.8% from last year’s spring split, which clocked in at 20.4 million hours on average.
Though Riot has previously claimed that their esports programs do not generate a profit at present, they have attracted sponsors to their broadcasts such as Coca-Cola and American Express. But previous deals were not of this apparent magnitude.
With this much money flowing into the coffers of Riot Games, presumably, now set to make a profit off of their esports program for the first time in its history, where would the money go?
With the rumored amount of the sale of broadcast rights at $500 million, there would be more than enough money to go around for Challenger and LCS teams alike – perhaps even increasing the base stipend for LCS players or franchising teams in the LCS.
ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Company and was worth over $50 billion to the company in 2014. Meanwhile, Riot Games is owned in majority by the Chinese company Tencent Games and pulls in nearly $1.5 billion in revenue per year according to SuperData Research.
This news comes at a time when Turner and IMG/WME have partnered up to broadcast ELEAGUE on TBS (as well as Twitch), and could be considered a countermeasure to ensure the continued relevance of League of Legends as the world’s largest esports.
PVP Live has reached out to both ESPN and Riot Games for comment on this story and will update as we learn more.
UPDATE: Riot responded to GameSpot’s request for comment and stated that the report is “inaccurate” and there are “no active talks with ESPN.” As GameSpot notes, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that discussions took place.
ESPN responded to our request, stating that it is “false,” and “we do not have a deal with Riot Games to broadcast League of Legends.” There was no comment on the discussions, only that a deal does not currently exist.
James “Obscurica” Chen contributed to this report.