Over the past month, the esports industry in China saw several key developments in acquisitions and media rights deals, primarily related to China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL) and the live streaming platform Huya. Edward Gaming’s (EDG) victory at the League of Legends World Championship 2021 continued to boost the industry with the team signing a major sponsorship with Chinese toy company Pop Mart.
The business of esports continued to evolve and develop during November, including new investments, sponsorships, and partnerships. Every month Mailman will share the biggest stories from China along with our analysis on why a particular deal matters.
Weibo and Chengdu AG acquire Suning Gaming and Rogue Warriors LPL franchises Chinese esports organization Weibo Gaming, the esports branch of Chinese social media platform Weibo, entered into the LPL by completing the acquisition of Suning Gaming (SN), including its LPL franchise. In addition, Chengdu-based esports organization All Gamers (AG) also bought the franchise slot and full roster of LPL team Rogue Warriors (RW). Following those two acquisitions, SN will be rebranded to WBG, and RW will be rebranded to Anyone’s Legend (AL). Mailman Take: The Weibo acquisition attracted huge attention given the influence and status of two of the biggest companies in China being involved. After Suning had terminated their Chinese Super League team earlier in the year, this acquisition by Weibo has been expected for a while as Suning wanted to remove any non-essential assets. This represents a significant opportunity also for TJ Sports to explore more potential collaboration for the LPL on Weibo.
Edward Gaming partners with Pop Mart, signs sponsorship with Huya LPL team EDG signed a partnership with Beijing-based blind box toy company Pop Mart. The two will design a co-branded toy and also donate $157K to charity. In addition, EDG also signed a major sponsorship with Chinese live-streaming platform Huya. EDG team players, including the Worlds 2021 roster began streaming on the platform on Dec 5. Mailman Take: EDG is the esports team with the highest commercial value in China following its victory at Worlds 2021. It has signed multiple partnerships and sponsorship deals with non-endemic companies and brands showcasing the power of success. We expect to see more partnerships between EDG and other LPL teams with non-endemic brands as successful case studies build confidence and credibility in the industry.
Huya signs exclusive Chinese media rights deal with ESL Gaming Last month, not only did the company sign the Worlds 2021 winner EDG, but also signed an exclusive two-year Chinese media rights deal with the Germany-based third-party esports company ESL Gaming for 2022-2023. The deal includes several of ESL’s esports competitions including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), ESL Pro League (EPL), Dota 2’s ESL One, and StarCraft II events. In addition, Huya also acquired exclusive streaming rights from TJ Sports for the League of Legends Demacia Cup. Mailman Take: Huya strengthens its ambitions with several major deals not limited only to the domestic esports titles. Huya had already signed an exclusive $310M, five-year media rights deal for the LPL and is also the only live streaming platform in China that broadcasts the LCS, LEC, and LCK. The deal with ESL strengthens the diversity of Huya’s streaming products, and we expect to see the company continue to grow its esports expansions.
Talon Esports raises $5M Series A investment Hong Kong-based esports organization Talon Esports announced that it has raised a $5M Series A financing round, led by investor Animoca Brands, Hana Digital Transformation Fund, and HZL capital. The investment will be used to grow its lifestyle and cultural platform targeting Generation Z and millennials through collaborations with athletes, musicians, and key opinion leaders. Mailman Take: Talon Esports competes in the League of Legends Pacific Championship Series (PCS) as well as several other titles throughout Asia. The League of Legends team has a major partnership with Paris Saint-Germain already and is continuing to grow its roster of commercial partners. This new investment will support their development and provide them with new resources to break into the Chinese market further.
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