Riot Games and ESPN have struck a deal to televise the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) Spring Split Playoffs immediately; a notable new example of a media network turning to esports amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting this afternoon, ESPN will air the three-round Spring Split Playoffs, with games aired either on linear TV via ESPN2 or digitally streamed on the ESPN app. The first match is 100 Thieves vs. Team SoloMid at 4:00 p.m. ET on the ESPN app.
The sides are describing ESPN as the official linear and authenticated streaming platform for the Spring Split, and games will still air on Twitch. The deal is being announced today.
ESPN VP/digital programming John Lasker said in a prepared statement, “We’re excited to work with Riot Games to create innovative content opportunities around this amazing franchise system. Showcasing one of the most popular esports in the world with the LCS’ Spring Split playoffs allows ESPN to serve new audiences.”
The six-team Spring Split started last week with online-only matches and will culminate with a grand final on Sunday, April 19, on ESPN2 at a time yet to be determined. The champion then advances to the Mid-Season Invitational, comprising the winner of all the regional League of Legends series around the world.
LCS Commissioner Chris Greeley added, “Now more than ever, coming together to watch and enjoy elite competitive gaming has the power to unite us as a community. We’re thrilled to bring the very best of the LCS to new audiences and existing fans through this partnership and look forward to some high-skill games on the Rift as we crown a new Spring champion.”
ESPN had already started to branch back into esports in recent weeks with a 12-hour block it aired last week with titles including Rocket League, F1, Apex Legends, NBA 2K and Madden. Meanwhile, rival publisher Activision Blizzard Esports has been in talks with media networks in recent weeks about getting Overwatch League back on linear TV – though a deal has yet to be announced.
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