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League of Legends’ maker inks rich broadcast contract, with an eye on premium content

Baseball’s streaming operation guarantees Riot $50 million a year

league of legends justice Riot Games
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Riot Games will rake in $50 million a year — at minimum — under an arrangement with Major League Baseball's online streaming operation to monetize and commercialize League of Legends competitions.

The deal between Riot and BAMTech, which is a subsidiary of MLB Advanced Media, runs through 2023. MLBAM handles, the online streaming network showing the leagues' games throughout the season. Clients such as Disney, HBO, the WWE and the PGA Tour also use BAMTech for their premium content offerings.

In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Riot representatives said the deal will not change or end the current supply of free League of Legends content found on Twitch, YouTube and other streaming platforms. However, with a $50 million minimum guarantee per year, it's obvious some kind of premium offering is in the works.

BAMTech, for its part, thinks there's enough money in premium esports content that it can make money for itself even starting with the $50 million obligation. Part of this is because esports is consumed online first, and through traditional broadcast channels second, unlike its own, which curates the local cable broadcasts of all 30 major league franchises.

"The amount of time that [Riot Games] has over the top for live events far eclipses any other sport in the world," said Bob Bowman, the BAMTech president of busines and media. “Over the top” means content delivered via the Internet without a middleman such as a broadcast channel or a cable company that pays to carry it.

"We think the world is ready for esports. The sponsors, the advertisers are ready for it," Bowman said to Yahoo!. "They’re dying for it. It’s a great audience and they spend a great deal of time with this content."