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Volume 25 No. 29

Esports

Riot Games is allowing teams in the North American League of Legends Championship Series to produce and sell their own streams of their developmental team competitions this summer, opening a new revenue stream for teams. Cloud9 is the first organization to sell a sponsorship for its Thursday night Academy League team stream, striking a deal with Mammoth Media, the publisher of the live-trivia app Arena. Academy League teams play on Thursdays and Fridays, but in the spring season, Riot only produced a single, league-run stream on Friday and distributed Thursday night games as video on demand. In April, teams asked if they could develop home-team broadcasts on Thursdays, and Riot agreed. Along with presenting rights, Arena will run esports-themed trivia during the Thursday night pre- and post-game shows on the Cloud9 Twitch channel, Cloud9 said. Terms were not disclosed, but the Academy League streams often draw more than 30,000 viewers, making it comparable to some recent Rocket League competitions. Arena will run trivia competitions during the Cloud9 broadcasts.

BUILDING AN IDENTITY: NA LCS League Operations Manager & Commissioner Chris Greeley said the Thursday night, team-run casts will help teams build identities for the lower-tier players. “We’re excited to see what teams can do with it,” Greeley said. Notably, he also said that it could eventually be a precursor for a day when NA LCS teams are granted exclusive geographic territories and run “local” broadcasts routinely, as MLB, NBA and NHL teams do today. “That is not the purpose of this,” Greeley emphasized, but, he added: “This could be a training ground for teams if they were going to handle a regional broadcast." Every team except Team SoloMid has decided to produce their own stream on Thursdays, according to Riot. Riot’s decision to turn limited media rights over to the teams is notable in light of concerns that team organizations’ revenue is limited by the expansive rights kept by esport publishers. All told, the teams will now be able to produce their own casts of 10 of the 18 games on the summer schedule. Friday will remain a league-run stream in the Academy League. Play starts Thursday.

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.

Viewership for the NBA 2K League has stayed around 5,000 average concurrent viewers
Photo: NBA2K LEAGUE

The NBA 2K League has set a June 29 deadline for possible expansion franchises to decide if they want to participate in the '19 season, nearly two months before the first season is over. Seventeen of the 30 NBA teams were charter members of the esports spinoff league that launched May 1, with the remainder declining for a variety of reasons. Some of the organizations that haven’t yet joined the 2K league include big-market teams such as the Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls and Nets. “I think we’ll get to 30 teams, eventually, if it’s spread out over the next couple years, that’s very realistic,” NBA 2K League Managing Dir Brendan Donohue said. The NBA declined to say if terms had changed since last year, but the first 17 teams paid $750,000 and committed to three years. Viewership for the startup league has stayed around 5,000 average concurrent viewers, according to The Esports Observer Audience Insights, only a fraction of the audience of the top esports games. But Donohue said he has taken heart from a recent rebound in viewership.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick appeared on CNBC's "Power Lunch" yesterday and noted the company is “excited” about the NBA 2K League, though execs "don’t expect any meaningful economic impact yet." He said, "It's helping the brand over time and right now, esports is about a $1 billion market." Analysts believe esports could grow to a $1.5B market in a couple of years, leading Zelnick to say, "We’d like a big chunk of that."

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.