Earlier today, a story broke from esports news site PVP Live claiming that ESPN is in talks to spend $500 million for League of Legend’s television-broadcasting rights. That is not the case.
ESPN and Riot Games have both confirmed to GamesBeat that they have no deal in the works with one another. The companies previously teamed up to broadcast League of Legends matches on the ESPN3 streaming network, but they are not actively working toward any deal that is worth any amount of money — let alone $500 million.
“The story is false,” reads ESPN’s official statement. “We do not have a deal with Riot Games to broadcast League of Legends.”
While ESPN goes on to say that it does not have a deal with Riot at the present, the first clause clearly states that the claim in PVP Live’s story is “false.” That suggests that everything including the terms of the deal and the nature of the talks in the original report are inaccurate.
We reached out to story’s author, PVP Live reporter Dustin Steiner, for a comment. In response, the site’s editor Josh Mull provided us with the following statement: “Hi, Jeff. Thanks for reaching out. We stand behind our writers and their sources. Thanks!”
Esports is a burgeoning market, so it’s easy to see why people would believe a story like this. Tens of millions of people tune in for League of Legends matches, and that’s more than the National Basketball Association’s Finals or Major League Baseball’s World Series. With that kind of viewership, it’s easy to imagine a company like ESPN making a half billion-dollar bet on esports.
But ESPN is not talking with Riot about this deal. The League of Legends company is constantly in negotiations with all kinds of companies, and it has certainly discussed the value of its TV rights.