With the 2016 season over and the future of competitive League of Legends in the balance, the relationship between Riot and team owners in the LCS—which could fairly be called strained in the best of times—have been nearly stretched to their limit. According to an article in Slingshot earlier this week, championship team owners from both NA and EU sent a letter to Riot regarding their concerns over financial stability, relegation and the LCS’s restriction on sponsorships.
Now, in the wake of a leaked report that Riot is considering a streaming deal with MLB, prominent League of Legends organizations TSM and Cloud 9 have announced an agreement with a different streaming platform—Twitch. While Twitch was already the exclusive streaming partner for both organizations, now it will also “act as their official sales representative to interested brands looking to reach their combined audience,” according to the press release. Twitch will be responsible for all of TSM and Cloud 9’s future sponsorships, be they gaming or otherwise related.
“Our partnership with TSM and Cloud 9 is long-standing and has helped pro players thrive in a growing live media ecosystem,” said Kevin Lin, COO of Twitch. “This expanded partnership will also improve the overall health of the esports industry by providing more opportunities for players through long-term support in a more sustainable ecosystem.” Lin’s language, which echoes the concerns laid out in the letter from LCS team owners, isn’t likely to be a coincidence. Both esports organizations, which had their origin in competitive League of Legends, now seem to be looking outside of Riot to plan for their future.
While this news seems most meaningful when viewed through the lens of League of Legends’ contentious financial climate, TSM and Cloud 9 both field teams in a variety of esports, including Hearthstone and CS:GO. How this deal will affect their relationship with developers such as Blizzard and Valve is unclear.