Riot Games and ESPN have announced a multiyear partnership to broadcast the North American League of Legends Championship Series on the ESPN+ app beginning with the Summer Split this June. The non-exclusive agreement will not affect broadcasts on Twitch, YouTube or Riots in-game player.
ESPN+ is the company’s new subscription-based live streaming service that can be purchased for $5(£3.76)/month or $50(£37.55)/year. Content includes game broadcasts and original programming without the requirement of a cable subscription. While services like Twitch and YouTube are free to watch, ESPN hopes this will open up for traditional sports fans to get their first look at esports broadcasts within the subscription service.
In 2016 Riot Games finalized a financial deal with BAMTech Media for exclusive distribution of League of Legends esports content. Last year The Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN, acquired majority ownership of BAMTech Media. According to ESPN’s Jacob Wolf, this new deal will replace the previous BAMTech agreement.
While this partnership only relates to its streaming service, ESPN has aired previous esports events like the League of Legends World Championship, Madden NFL 2016 Championship and Heroes of the Storm’s collegiate championship, Heroes of the Dorm, on its cable channels.
The NA LCS Summer Split starts June 16 and will run on Saturdays and Sunday through August 19. On top of regular season games, ESPN+ will broadcast the North American Summer Finals, World Championship, North American Academy League, Mid-Season Invitational, All-Star Event and Rift Rivals.
Esports Insider says: ESPN seems to be appealing to the cord-cutter generation with the release of its ESPN+ service. But considering the service requires a subscription its less likely that die-hard League fans will tune into the ESPN+ app to watch games. Still, it’s a nice push to appeal to a new audience that may be unfamiliar with esports.