League of Legends fans are coming together to voice their disdain for the League of Legends Spring Split playoffs airing on ESPN.
Starting April 11, the Riot announced that all playoff games would be broadcast on ESPN2 going forward. While this seemed like a big move for esports during the ongoing lockdown and a chance to get more viewership, current fans were not happy with the games they’ve watched on the network so far.
The reason for their displeasure? The commercial breaks.
“Now, I’m watching live on Youtube and Dash tells everyone they’re heading for a commercial break but the analyst desk continues. So, whoever is watching on ESPN misses half of the analysis… But right after that, it’s the regular five minute stream break when they play music starts. Why wasn’t this postponed until the regular five minute break right after? Instead, people on ESPN get a 10 minute commercial break huh?” one Reddit user ranted in the League of Legends sub.
The user then observed that there was another commercial break less than 10 minutes later right in the middle of champion select. This lead to anyone watching on ESPN2 to miss part of the champion select portion of the match plus any accompanying analysis of the bans. Because of this, he stated that he doesn’t see anyone watching on ESPN2 when they can watch on YouTube or Twitch without the jarring interruptions.
Most of the League of Legends community appeared to be in agreement. One Reddit user replied that they should have done the commercials before the analyst desk or even break the desk in half to allow for an advertising segment. Instead, there are ads being aired during the analyst desk and the draft. They also noticed that the 1080p feed was “shrunk” so the network could “fit the world crawl on the bottom,” causing there to be black bars on the right and left of the broadcast.
While it may be the case that fans who watch on Twitch and YouTube most likely won’t be switching to ESPN2 any time soon, some pointed out that Riot most likely aired it on the ESPN network to get new fans. And many of their viewers are already accustomed to seeing advertisements during traditional sporting events. For this reason, the abundance of ads might not deter new viewers from watching a game of League of Legends during the lockdown. Many sports fans agreed that they are used to ads, not that they like them at all. In fact, many felt traditional sports had too many commercial breaks, too.
Some League of Legends viewers were skeptical that people unfamiliar with esports would actually stop to watch the games on TV.
“No one who doesn’t play League of Legends is going to start watching League because it’s on TV. They’re not going to know wtf is going on,” one Redditor pointed out.
Another said they’d be surprised, since ESPN was airing marbles racing down a hill just last week. While League of Legends is definitely more complicated than a marble race, there’s a chance people stuck inside might be “desperate these days” and actually check out esports instead of “arguing about whether esports are real sports or not.”
Even though many LoL fans have accepted that network TV will always have commercial breaks, they’re still concerned with the timing of the ads. The confusing ad interruptions are most likely due to the fact that cable television can’t go over 30 minutes without showing advertisements. ESPN2 hasn’t revealed any viewer statistics for the playoff so far, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see at least some views. During lockdown, Twitch and other streaming services have seen a big jump in viewership, with competitive League of Legends being one of the big players.
ESPN is not new to the esports scene. They have aired other esports tournaments in the past and have created other esports-related content.