Beijing News has reported that Bilibili is set to pay $113 Million (800 million yuan) over three years to Riot Games for the exclusive Chinese broadcasting rights for League of Legends Worlds. Bilibili outbid Chinese streaming sites Huya and Douyu in the process.
For context, Bilibili is one of many major streaming platforms in China and is likely not even in the top five. They compete with other video/streaming services such as Youku, iQiyi, Tencent Video, Kuaishou, Weishi and the above mentioned Huya and Douyu who also bid for the service. It’s worth noting that Tencent Video isn’t really likely to be a bidding competitor for LoL due to Tencent owning Riot Games.
The deal also puts into perspective the level of funding available in China. League of Legends is, without a doubt one of the largest games in the region, and certainly the largest Western title. When Activision Blizzard sold the broadcasting rights for the Overwatch League to Twitch it was valued at $90 Million over two years.
Like the Twitch Overwatch deal, it does seem like Bilibili has overpaid for the rights in an attempt to avoid sharing the rights. It will be a while before we have any indication as to if the deal was worth it or not. Though, with the Twitch OWL deal as an example, the fact that no one has picked up exclusive rights to OWL for 2020 might have proven it to be a failed endeavor for Twitch in this instance. Although, it’s safe to say the OWL probably didn’t take the esports world by storm as Activision or Twitch had hoped.
Back in 2018, when China lifted its first Worlds title, PandaTV had over 100 Million viewers on its platform alone, with another 100 Million across other major platforms. While it’s important to take these numbers with a grain of salt, even 10% of that number would put China well ahead of the rest of the world’s figures from 2018 (2 Million) and even the 2019 numbers which peaked at just shy of 4 Million (according to Esports Charts).