League of Legends hits streaming deal with Major League Baseball

Popular e-sports league snags $300 million rights deal with MLB's streaming unit to lure in new viewers and sponsors.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read

Looks like e-sport's heaviest hitter, League of Legends, has a new teammate: Major League Baseball.

Word spread on Friday that BAMTech, MLB's video streaming arm, will pay around $300 million to Riot Games for streaming rights to its immensely popular League of Legends. The deal, first reported by The Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by Riot, gives BAMTech "exclusive rights to stream and monetize 'League of Legends' competitions" through 2023.

Here's what "exclusive" actually means: BAMTech will launch an app to stream League of Legends battles next year to run on both PCs and mobile devices to attract new viewers, advertisers and sponsors. BAMTech will also distribute its steaming content to other platforms, including Twitch and YouTube, which currently show the clashes.

This deal comes more than four months after Disney paid about $1 billion for a 33 percent stake in BAMTech, which provides streaming for several sports and media companies including HBO and the WWE to more than 7 million subscribers.

Almost instantly, diehard League of Legends fans wondered how the deal affects them. Riot's e-sports director Whalen "Magus" Rozelle took to Reddit Friday saying, "the current experience we have today is and will continue to be free."

E-sports popularity continues to escalate, with League of Legends alone having more than 100 million players globally. Competitive professional gaming has some 292 million followers online and on TV, according to e-sports data tracker Newzoo.

And, a PwC report projects the industry will generate about $463 million this year, a 43 percent increase from 2015.