Riot streaming partner BAMTech, the tech arm of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, has been acquired by Disney. The $1.5 billion deal was announced earlier this week and is linked to Disney’s plan to move its content from Netflix to an exclusive streaming platform.
BAMTech – the creator of MLB.tv
Last December, Riot announced plans to stream its massively popular esports leagues. The plan included BAMTech and a $300 million deal. BAMTech, a powerhouse that created the popular MLB.tv, was a clear choice for the League of Legends developer.
An additional draw to the whole endeavor is that it should come with no cost to viewers.
“We first and foremost believe in making sure that the content is in places where the fans want to watch it, so that will continue to be the case,” said Riot Games’ co-head of esports, Jarred Kennedy, back in December. “We believe in making content freely available, and it will continue to be freely available into the future. We have no plans to change that.”
For now, streaming platforms in esports have foregone paid subscription models. But whether Disney’s business model will be in line with this strategy is yet to be seen.
Moreover, Riot’s existing partnership with BAMTech could be altered if Disney decides to go down a different path. Whatever comes of it, the media giant surely won’t ignore the positive viewership trend in the esports industry.
Disney moving to its own platform
After 2019, Disney will not offer any new content on Netflix. Instead, the film studio plans to move its content to an exclusive platform. For this reason, the company acquired a majority stake in BAMTech in the amount of $1.5 billion.
“Today we announced a strategic shift in the way we distribute our content,” said Disney Chairman Robert A. Iger in a statement. “The media landscape is increasingly defined by direct relationships between content creators and consumers.”
Following flat revenue growth and a nine percent decline in profits for the most recent quarter, Disney sees the need to shift. The company recorded a 23 percent drop in cable revenue, which, according to a conference call, mainly came from higher programming costs, lower advertising revenue, and severance and contract termination costs.
A major share of the slide was attributable to ESPN, which is owned by Disney. The channel has been seeing customers drop their cable service for rival streaming services. This is another reason why investing in BAMTech could prove to be an excellent move.
According to industry experts, the BAMTech acquisition can help get ESPN back on track when it comes to sports broadcasting in the internet age.
Disney and esports
The recent BAMTech purchase isn’t directly linked to Disney dipping a toe into esports waters. That said, the company did launch an esports vertical last year. Since then, an increasing amount of esports content has made its way to mainstream TV.
On top of that, Disney recently partnered with ESL, one of the foundational organizations in esports.
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