Esports journalist Travis Gafford recently made a video in which he explained why the LCS and LEC might make exclusive streaming deals in the near future.
His prediction is based on recent initiatives from League of Legends developer Riot Games, which has introduced franchising to its leagues and rebranded LoL Esports to better gather all of its competitive leagues under one roof.
Riot has been putting renewed effort into guiding viewers towards the LoL Esports website to watch its streams. Riot has been doing this for some time, but the recent update of the website seems to be another big step in that direction.
Riot also recently introduced drops to both LCS and LEC streams, giving viewers the opportunity to receive in-game rewards while watching. Getting these drops is only possible if you watch the streams through the LoL Esports website with your League of Legends account connected.
The drops were positively received by the community when they were announced, but it quickly changed after the first week of drops. The drops received criticism from the community for being lackluster. Riot announced drops that would offer chests, skin shards, prestige points, and Clash tickets, but fans often ended up receiving small amounts of Blue Essence to their disappointment.
On paper, the drop system seems like a great way for Riot to increase the traffic on the LoL Esports website, but it will need drastic improvements in practice.
It is also known that Riot expects the LCS to be profitable beginning next year after comments made by league commissioner Chris Greeley in June, when he mentioned that the LCS is aiming to be the first profitable league in the game. This is another reason why an exclusive streaming deal could soon take hold, as the size of a potential deal would grant Riot a big source of new income for the league. With Riot introducing the franchise system in both the LCS and LEC, it was clear to the community that the company is looking to take competitive League of Legends to the next level. LoL Esports is no longer just a way to promote the game, but is now a big business with a vision to function like existing traditional sports leagues.
Signing exclusive streaming deals has become a trend over the past year, starting with Richard “Ninja” Blevins moving to Mixer in August 2019. The move started an avalanche of deals where multiple streamers moved away from Twitch to other platforms such as Mixer, YouTube, and Facebook.
The Overwatch League also decided to make a big move by signing an exclusive deal with YouTube after its original deal with Twitch expired. The LCS or LEC could be the next big esports leagues to make such a move, but it will most likely come at a cost.
While a deal of this caliber could mean a big financial return for Riot and its leagues, it could also mean a big drop in viewership. It seems that Riot is trying to prevent this by encouraging people to watch through their own website, but it’s unrealistic to think that the two leagues wouldn’t take a hit in viewership if a deal eventually comes through.