Bilibili, a Chinese video platform popular with young audiences and known for its anime-based community building, has secured exclusive broadcasting rights for the annual League of Legends (LoL) World Championships. The deal, which reportedly cost Bilibili 800 million RMB (about 113.7 million USD) and will last through 2022, ensures the video platform will be the only place where Chinese LoL fans can tune in for the tournament’s action.
Esports is a rapidly expanding industry in China, the world’s largest gaming market. This year, another video platform called Kuaishou reported 74 million viewers for the 2019 LoL World Championships. Meanwhile, Shanghai held this year’s International Dota 2 Championships, the world’s largest esports event, and will also host next year’s LoL World Championship finals. Even local government officials want in on the action, offering subsidies to businesses who build esports arenas.
Chinese esports professionals are now some of the world’s finest. A Chinese team named FunPlus Phoenix won this year’s LoL World Championship, a year after Invictus Gaming became the first Chinese team to win.
Bilibili’s broadcasting deal, which it won through a competitive bidding process, shows how important esports has become for China’s video and streaming industries, especially for companies hoping to attract young viewers.
The deal and China’s esports expansion come as League of Legends itself is expanding. Riot Games, the Tencent-owned gaming company behind the classic multiplayer title, announced in October that it is developing new content for the LoL universe, including a fighting game, a digital card game, a mobile version of LoL, as well as an animated miniseries and a Netflix documentary.
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