A canceled live event, shut down studio, and a cast and crew stranded at home. The timing of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could hardly have been worse for the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), which had brought on numerous new commercial partners for the 2020 season, and was preparing its debut live event in the Hungarian market.
Rather than delay or strike off the ongoing Spring Split, the league’s production team fast-tracked the live studio production into a piece-meal online broadcast; which while initially plagued with production errors, grew more stable as the weeks progressed.
“The internet bandwidth and reliability, the hardware and software required, the right environment to produce quality video and audio from the casters…we only had 6 days to figure out how to tackle all these challenges,” Alberto Guerrero, director of esports EMEA for Riot Games, told The Esports Observer.
With the Summer Split still over a month away, the focus now is whether games can return to the Berlin studio, and more importantly, if the finals will go to Malmö in Sweden, as originally planned. Guerrero said neither was canceled at this point, and that Riot was still looking forward to hosting an event in Budapest, sooner or later.
“I don’t foresee any long-term impact of the cancellation, and not only are the conversations with other cities for 2021 events very advanced, but we’ve even started talks about 2022 finals,” he said.
As seen throughout esports right now, the downgrade in production doesn’t appear to have greatly hurt audience numbers. From its own reporting, Riot Games states the Spring Split finals drew 807.3K concurrent viewers worldwide at its peak; a 76.18% increase from the previous peak earlier this year. The playoffs saw an Average Minute Audience (AMA) of 279.3K, which was a 13.74% YoY increase.
This was the third time reigning champions G2 Esports played against longtime rivals Fnatic in the finals, with G2 taking its seventh title to date. The triumph was definitely scaled down; with the players lifting the trophy from the comfort of their training room, rather than on stage in front of tens of thousands. The loss of a live arena also meant lost value for commercial partners, but as Alban Dechelotte, head of partnerships and business development EMEA said, it was an opportunity to be creative.
“Our partner Warner Music organized a live-streamed performance of Robin Schultz in the opening before the LEC finals, and Kit Kat pivoted to a social media activation with great success, reaching over 12 million fans,” said Dechelotte.
“In general, our partners have been very impressed by what they’ve seen behind the scenes of our production,” he said. “Despite the overall challenging circumstances, we’ve seen growing interest from new brands that are looking to connect with League of Legends fans during the time where we’re one of the few sports that can continue right now.”
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