How to View the Potential League of Legends Streaming Deal with MLB

By Jeff Francis
Looking at the League of Legends deal with MLBAM

There is one aspect of eSports that perfectly coincides with traditional sports, which is seeking to gain as much revenue as possible through advertising and other means. While an online rpg like League of Legends makes over a billion dollars a year from its players, there is definitely an issue in monetizing the eSports tournament format. Regular sports, such as football and basketball, make hundreds of millions of dollars every year through advertising at their stadiums and through websites and apps, but eSports has not been able to capture the same level of advertiser interest (and money). That may be about to change as Riot Games has made a deal with the tech unit of the Major League Baseball Advanced Media group for a streaming app that looks to boost revenue and is slated to be worth $200 million to the moba game company. Interest from players and other eSports companies is really high as they look to see what the final ramifications are for this League of Legends Major League Baseball Advanced Media deal. Let's look at how to view the potential League of Legends streaming deal with MLB.

League of Legends Richard Lewis

To begin, eSports has a lot of things going for it. There's a rabid fanbase that passionately follows specific teams and games, and the broadcast of tournaments has been released upon multiple platforms, such as Twitch and YouTube, to millions of viewers. The end result is that eSports is extremely accessible to fans, and these fans tend to fall in the age category that is beloved by advertisers. Yet with all this going for eSports, it has yet to fully capitalize upon its monetary potential in terms of advertising. Some of this has to do with the free aspect of the various mmo games associated with the sport, such as League of Legends, DOTA 2, and SMITE. Riot Games looks to greatly increase their monetary rewards of the increasing popularity of eSports through this deal with MLB Advanced Media to have League of Legends streaming via an app, but this app will be for more than just streaming.

A summary of the League of Legends Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) deal is that a standalone video app will be developed for streaming live games and for on-demand video content. MLBAM will provide multimedia/media operations, product, design, project management, development, analytics, hosting, and technical support for the League of Legends app. Conversely, Riot Games will only be providing customer service and billing/subscriber management. This app will launch on multiple platforms: desktop, web, iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and tvOS. A lot of people may ask: what is the big deal about this proposed deal for League of Legends streaming?

To be honest, this new app and deal could be big news for not just League of Legends eSports but for all eSports in general. First, it seems highly unlikely that Riot Games will cut off free access to watching tournaments and other League of Legends streaming opportunities. This will kill off player interest in following the game on the eSports circuit as players today are used to being entertained for free. However, I do think it is highly likely that there will be a subscription service for those gamers interested in diving deep into the stats, replays, and breakdowns of the tournaments, even while they are currently streaming. MLBAM have developed apps for other professional sports to help enhance the viewer experience by being able to go to a deeper level than just watching the action, and it makes perfect sense that this is what will be going on in the new League of Legends app. Having a successful outfit like MLBAM being the brains behind the app can mean that a higher tier of advertisers may be willing to spend money hawking their wares through the app as they have seen positive returns on similar apps developed by MLBAM. The end result is that companies with far greater budgets for advertising than the usual eSports sponsors may soon start dumping lots of cash to tap into the eSports fanbase. (Again, I have to point out that the average age of the eSports fan lies in the coveted sweet spot for advertisers.)

The result of this potential League of Legends Major League Baseball Advanced Media deal is that both companies are looking at maximizing the revenue potential of the game (which you can play for free here). This deal also puts a lot more control of League of Legends streaming back into the hands of Riot Games. Right now, they're pretty dependent upon Twitch, which is owned by Amazon. It must be pointed out that Amazon recently announced their foray into the video game business, which means that potential conflicts could occur in the future as Riot and Amazon could become competitors. As Joost van Dreunen, chief executive of SuperData Research, says, "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."

This League of Legends Major League Baseball Advanced Media deal could be huge in terms of economics and in growing eSports. If the League of Legends app is successful and leads to a big increase in advertising and general revenue, then you can bet that other mmo game companies will get into the action. This increased revenue will help grow eSports as there will be more money for broadcasting and funding it, allowing teams and players to earn far more than they currently do now. They say a rising tide lifts all boats, and it may be that this new League of Legends app may do that for eSports in general. My gut reaction is that there will be two tiers for the app: a free one to keep current fans happy and a paid tier for those looking to dive deeper into the stats and get new ways to experience the action. In the end, I think that if done right, this deal for League of Legends streaming can be the first major step towards an extremely profitable future for eSports in general.


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