Tencent and Riot Games Create Joint Chinese Esports Venture: TJ Sports

  • Tencent and Riot Games establish a joint venture in Shanghai: TJ Sports, which will initially focus on all League of Legends esports business in China, including tournament organizing, talent management, and venues.
  • The company also announced the 2019 partnership list for the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), with Mercedes-Benz as the head partner.
  • The company also named Jin “Bobby” Yibo and Lin “Leo” Song as the co-CEOs of TJ Sports. It was stated that the LPL broke the 15B viewers record in 2018, and that the league will be looking for a title sponsor in 2019.

On Jan. 10, Chinese tech giant Tencent Games Database-Link-e1521645463907 and game publisher Riot Games Database-Link-e1521645463907 launched a “2019 China League of Legends Database-Link-e1521645463907 Leader Summit” in Shanghai, China. Multiple Shanghai politicians and esports company leaders attended the summit. At the event, Nicolo Laurent, the CEO of Riot Games, and multiple executives from Tencent announced the two companies have established a joint venture called Tengjing Sports (or TJ Sports for short), in Shanghai.

A report from 36Kr said 50% of the shares in the new venture are owned by Tencent, while the other 50% is owned Riot. The Esports Observer was unable to independently verify this part of the story at press time.

TJ Sports will work initially on LoL tournament organizing, talent management, esports venues, and LoL related products.

According to the announcement by Ma Xiaoyi, the senior vice president of Tencent Group and the board member of TJ Sports, the company will mainly focus on League of Legends relevant business in the short and mid-term plan, including tournament organizing, talent management, esports venues, and LoL related products. In addition, the company is also open to working on the future games of Riot and Tencent.

“TJ Sports will build the best tournament organizing team to improve our tournament and users experiences, and make the standardization of the esports industry. In the long term, TJ Sports plans to become an international esports operation company, improving the diversity and sustainability of the esports industry at the global scale.”

Nicolo also said, “LPL is the first competition area that launched a Home/Away mode in the League of Legends tournament system. I believe that TJ Sports can bring League of Legends, as a top esports game, to higher level.”

In addition, TJ Sports announced the partnership list of LPL in 2019.

  • Head partner: Mercedes Benz
  • Official partners: KFC, Alienware, Hongmo, Zhanma (a Chinese energy drink brand), Yili Guliduo, Doritos, L’Oreal Men Expert, HUPU (a platform same as Reddit).
  • Equipment partner: DxRacer
  • Media rights partner: Huya, Douyu, Panda TV, Bilibili, Tencent Sports, Weibo.

It is significant that six of the LPL partners, including Mercedes-Benz, KFC, Yili Guliduo, Doritos, Douyu, and Hongmo, have also partnered with Chinese esports organization Royal Never Give-Up. The Esports Observer reported the Hongmo partnership earlier this month.  

Alongside League of Legends, the company is also open to working on the future games of Riot and Tencent.

In addition, the company has named Jin “Bobby” Yibo and Lin “Leo” Song as co-CEOs. Before this appointment, Lin was responsible for all of Riot Games’ business in China. He previously worked for P&G, McKinsey, and TripAdvisor. Jin is directly in charge of League of Legends business at Tencent. The two stated that the LPL broke the 15B viewers record in 2018, and the 2018 League of Legends World Champion finals has more than 99.6M individual viewers.

Lin also claimed that the LPL will be looking for title sponsors in 2019. As reported by The Esports Observer last month, Nike is currently negotiating with Tencent over a potential competition sponsorship deal for LPL. Sources said the exclusivity conditions of the deal would prevent LPL teams from seeking other sponsorships.

In 2015, Tencent completed the acquisition of LoL developer Riot Games, gaining 100%  of the company’s shares. In early 2011, Tencent acquired a majority stake of Riot Games, for a reported $400M USD. Tencent also owns a 40% stake in Epic Games Database-Link-e1521645463907, the game publisher of Fortnite Database-Link-e1521645463907, and a 10% share in PUBG developer Bluehole Studio Database-Link-e1521645463907.

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