Riot Games today announced an agreement with Chinese streaming video platform Bilibili that grants it exclusive broadcasting rights to its major League of Legends global events.
The three-year deal will begin with this autumn’s 2020 League of Legends World Championship and also include the annual Mid-Season Invitational and All-Star events.
Carly Lee, Vice Chairwoman and COO of Bilibili, commented in a release: “We are excited to reach this strategic partnership with Riot Games. Throughout the past decade, we have witnessed the development of the esports industry from a niche market to a mainstream one that is now one of the most popular sports among young people in China. The number of views of esports videos on Bilibili reached 44 billion in 2019. Bilibili will take this opportunity and help Shanghai build its leadership position in the global esports industry.”
According to the release, the deal will run through the 2023 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational. Bilibili will also produce original streaming and on-demand video content around the competitions, including content featuring retired Chinese pro players Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao and Ming “Clearlove” Kai.
Additionally, Bilibili, Riot Games, and TJ Sports will co-produce a 10th-anniversary documentary special about League of Legends World Championship that particularly focuses on teams from China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL). Further documentaries are also planned along with offline events, with some events planned for this year’s World Championship.
John Needham, Global Head of Esports at Riot Games, added: “We continuously look to share our sport across platforms with our fans, and Bilibili will help us share the spectacle of LoL Esports to more of our fans in China. Our partnership with Bilibili allows us to stream our broadcasts to new audiences and also unlocks our ability to develop fresh content and storylines around our top professional players as we move into the next decade of LoL Esports.”
The partnership comes shortly after Riot Games confirmed that the 2020 World Championship will still take place as a live competition in China, albeit at a different venue and with all events centralised within Shanghai.
The 2021 League of Legends World Championship will also return to China, to try and realise Riot Games’ original, wider-scale vision for this year’s tournament (which would have included qualifying rounds in other cities), with the 2022 tournament confirmed for somewhere in North America.
In December 2019, Beijing News reported that Bilibili had paid 800 million yuan (now £87.9 million) for an exclusive three-year deal to broadcast the League of Legends World Championship, although today’s release is the first official announcement on the matter. No official terms were disclosed.
Esports Insider says: We’re seeing a lot more exclusive Chinese broadcast deals of late, including one with ESL and DreamHack with DouYu earlier today. With Worlds in Shanghai this year and returning to China next year, as well, this makes a lot of sense for Riot Games to really try to amplify the local streaming presence there.