Last month ESPN, president John Skipper said esports were “not a sport… its a competition.” But his company can’t seem to get enough of esports content.
This weekend’s League of Legends world finals match between Samsung Galaxy White and Star Horn Royal Club will be broadcast live on ESPN3, starting Sunday at 2:30am ET. ESPN will also distribute highlights from the match through its online platforms.
The final match of the Riot World Championship will decide which team lifts the Summoner’s Cup, the esports version of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and which team takes home the $1 million top prize. More people watched last year’s final between SK Telecom T1 K and Royal Club than the World Series.
The leader in sports broadcasting has been flirting with their electronic cousins for much of this year. In June, highlights of the Major League Gaming-hosted Call of Duty championship at the X Games aired on ESPN.
In July, ESPN3 took a major dive into the esports market, airing portions of the biggest esports tournament ever, The International 4, which featured nearly $11 million in prize money. The company was apparently “delighted” with the results.
Over the past few weeks, highlights from the Riot World Championships appeared on ESPN’s video hub. The fan response from the League of Legends community quickly boosted them to the highest rated on the site—prompting ESPN to remove them from the “Top Rated” video category. You can’t have a competition competing with real sports, now, can you?
But that’s just what they’re doing, in some ways. Esports draw one of the largest audiences in online broadcasting—it makes too much sense for ESPN3 to stick their hands into that ever growing pie, and keep it there.
Image via Riot Games/Flickr