Isn’t it funny how using the parent companies’ names make these sort of deals more of an incredible spectacle to behold? (And if you come back at me with this “oooo butbutbutbutbut le rito is not le child company of le onedime chinur corporation lelelelele” nonsense, prepare to be told off.)
PVPLive has reported that Disney’s ESPN unit and Tencent’s Riot Games are actively negotiating television broadcast rights for the LCS. The deal is rumored to be valued somewhere in the region of $500m USD. Such a deal is equivalent to about one-third of Riot’s annual revenue, according to estimates from SuperData Research.
I’ve been on the record saying that ESPN’s entrance into esports was always a two-part equation: having the right people in-house and delivering killer video content.
You have to hand it to ESPN, they’ve certainly been recruiting some great writers to contribute to their reporting and their coverage hub has been putting out a lot of content spanning all of the major esports as well as grassroot scenes returning to popularity, like Smash.
Speaking of hiring great reporters–what happened to Slasher?
The second part of that formula hasn’t been as big of a stand-out success as I initially expected it to be. Even if it were simply someone recording a voice over and filing reports with the most generalized language possible so it could be thrown into currently existing shows or rundowns, having the additional touch of quality and professionalism that an ESPN video-journalistic approach could offer would make for some pretty compelling content.
However, Yahoo! has picked up the slack from ESPN with regards to video features and overall video packages. Many of the personalities they have aren’t leading minds in a given esport, but they are such believable presenters that you are willing to resist the urge to criticize them for being good in front of a camera.
If by making an earnest effort to incorporate esports content into ESPN’s broadcast platforms (not simply television) ends up being the most effective way to increase ESPN’s share of the younger demographics, then Disney might perhaps be making a right move here.
Facing increased pressure from shareholders over their ESPN unit’s recent ratings slump among other short-comings, an investment like this makes sense, especially considering how Disney is perceived to have strong-armed the stock market into stopping a rally. An important perspective to keep when rival Comcast announced it would be unveiling its own answer to sports streaming in the form of Playmaker, competing with WatchESPN bringing more important events to the world of streaming content such as the Premier League, the Triple Crown, the NASCAR championship and–its first client–the Olympics, for crying out loud.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of pressure on ESPN to expand its streaming content offerings and coverage to be able to adapt to or at least keep up with their corporate rivals’ potential offerings. CBS and Fox haven’t really stepped into the realm of streaming platform supremacy, as far as I know, but I’d be willing to bet that the first one that doesn’t require me to log into my cable TV provider’s authentication portal to a stream will win.
Look on the bright side, there’s no need for a chat window to be shown by default for these streams to be successful ventures.
And as if this post wasn’t confusing enough, this whole story may have been written up with less than all the facts. A freelance reporter says that he has received a pretty solid denial from a nameless PR drone at ESPN and Engadget are now running a story with a more firm denial expressly stating Riot are in “no active talks with ESPN at the moment.”
Maybe this is just a fairly credible rumor that PVPLive are running with?
Just give me Overwatch already.