LCK franchising: How do teams think and are preparing for the big change?

 

On the 6th (KST), Riot Korea finally made the announcement that LCK will be implementing the long-term partnership model (franchising). As a model that’s already been implemented in the LEC, LCS, LPL, among other major regions, it was news that many LCK fans have been anticipating for a long time.

 

However, it’s already April of 2020, and since it’s been announced that the franchise model will be implemented from the beginning of 2021 Spring, there’s not a lot of time left to prepare for it. We became curious about how teams feel about it. From teams that have already partnered up with major investors to those that have yet to secure them, the point of views on this matter is bound to be different.

 

We asked T1, Gen.G, SANDBOX Gaming, APK Prince, and the Challengers Korea team that has yet to make it into the LCK, Team Dynamics, on how they feel about the LCK being franchised. From teams with a lot of resources to those that have a lot more to prepare for the franchising, let’s check out what these teams had to say.

 

* Note: Due to various internal affairs, some teams have declined to provide statements.

 


 

T1"The biggest opportunity will now be the potential for added revenue as a franchise." - Joe Marsh, CEO of T1 Entertainment & Sports

 

What are your thoughts on the recent news regarding franchising in the LCK?

 

I’m very excited about the franchise announcement. Nearly a year ago, we heard that there was a potential for the League to franchise at some point in the future. I think it is going to create the opportunity for LCK teams to finally be on a level playing field with the other franchised leagues in League like LCS, LPL and LEC.

 

 

How is the organization preparing for the upcoming changes in the LCK?

 

Up to this point, we haven’t had to do much differently. We operated our organization like a franchised team the past few years – investing in our players, coaches, staff, facilities, and so on. So for us, the biggest opportunity will now be the potential for added revenue as a franchise. I think a huge recruiting benefit for us – especially now that they have announced franchised teams will need to operate Academy teams, which T1 already does – is our new HQ that will open soon. World class players want to play in the best facilities in the world and we will be able to offer that at T1.

 

 

Is there anything that you hope to get from Riot Korea in regards to franchising in the LCK?

 

I’m excited to learn more about the additional revenue streams that will open up to the teams, as well as how we will expand our global reach via distribution deals. It would be great to also see Riot look to have our matches broadcasted on traditional linear TV as a supplement to the exposure we receive from the streaming platforms.

 

 

Gen.G"I would like to see Riot Korea take more innovative and potentially controversial steps instead of playing it safe." - Arnold Hur, COO of Gen.G Esports

 

What do you think about the recent news regarding LCK franchise?

 

We are really excited about the league taking the next step to continue to improve and evolve the business. League of Legends is the world’s most popular esport and is currently on the path to potentially be the world’s most watched sport in the world in 2020. We have been looking to deepen our commitment and investment into this scene and we are pleased to see Riot Korea take the next step here. We feel that Korean esports has ceded leadership of the esports space to other regions, and we think this is a great first step to reclaim leadership of the global esports industry.

 

 

How is the organization preparing for the upcoming changes in the LCK?

 

Currently, teams only think about this season and are unable to tap into growing a strong franchise and brand for years over the long term. For example, I see many teams that jump from sponsor to sponsor, each time changing their name, without building the core of their brand. We need to get away from that model and focus on creating lifelong fans and loyalties that get passed on generation to generation, the same way you see in baseball and other traditional sports in Korea. As well, I think we need much stronger care for players as they are going to be competing against the best in the world, and we need to ensure their well-being for the long run, not just one season.

 

 

Is there anything that you hope to get from Riot Korea in regards to franchising in the LCK?

 

This may seem a bit of a strange answer, but I would like to see Riot Korea take more innovative and potentially controversial steps instead of playing it safe. Korea’s esports scene exploded due to innovation and a focus of making the players the stars, but I worry that the scene has since stagnated as tradition has set in. I see many excuses from esports leagues that resist change simply because “that’s how it was always done.” Doing only what worked in the past will only guarantee failure for the future, and we should challenge what esports is and can be in the future. A clear focus on showcasing our players and creating digital opportunities for fans to engage is what makes esports special, and we should lean on these areas to build the future.

 

 

SANDBOX Gaming"We believe that it will become a turning point for Esports business in Korea." - Becker Jung, Lead at SANDBOX Gaming

 

What are your thoughts on the recent news regarding franchising in the LCK?

 

We are delighted to hear that LCK will be franchised for the upcoming season. Current relegation/promotion system made clubs difficult to make aggressive investments and envisioning the long haul. As long as slots are secured and league revenues are shared, we believe that it will become a turning point for Esports business in Korea.

 

 

How is the organization preparing for the upcoming changes in the LCK?

 

We are not necessarily making any major changes for the franchise league, since we've been expecting franchise to happen in a year or two. We are just trying to put everything together, and prove sufficient references that we are capable of becoming a permanent partner of LCK.

 

 

APK Prince"It’ll be a step in the right direction in making LoL truly a global sport." - Kim Danam, CEO of APK Prince

 

What are your thoughts on the recent news regarding franchising in the LCK?

 

As a team that’s playing in one of the major four regions in LoL esports, we look at the 2021 franchising very positively. Whether you’re a player, fan, or an industry insider, not only will this improve the quality of the league for all parties, it’ll be a step in the right direction in making LoL truly a global sport.

 

 

How is the organization preparing for the upcoming changes in the LCK?

 

This team was first formed in 2016, and during our journey to be promoted into the LCK from Challengers Korea in 2020, we’ve made sure to nurture and find various talent in the league, creating our own system to optimally run the team, and work together with others in many esports related projects to be where we’re at today.

 

APK Prince will make sure that we’ll do everything to meet all the requirements to apply for LCK franchising, and will continue to work towards becoming the team that befits a franchised team in the LCK. As an underdog in the LCK, we’ll make sure to not only continue putting on great shows for the fans at home, we’ll run the organization in our own way and diligently fulfill our duties as an esports focused enterprise. We welcome all interest from globally renowned corporations, and please don’t hesitate to contact us.



Is there anything that you hope to get from Riot Korea in regards to franchising in the LCK?

 

As this may probably be the case for the many teams that work hard in the league, APK also had many trials and tribulations that stood our way, but I believe that we are where we are right now  because of our players, the team, and the management holding the fort down. To all the organizations in Challengers Korea and the LCK that are proactively searching for the right corporations to partner up with, I wish everyone the best so that franchising in the LCK will go smoothly.

 

 

Team Dynamics"I hope that Riot will be more active and detailed in setting up their academy league." - Jihwan Oh, CEO of Team Dynamics

Image source: Team Dynamics Official Facebook

 

What are your thoughts on the recent news regarding franchising in the LCK?

 

I was aware of it. Because of how esports business overseas looked shaky in the past, I definitely agree that the LCK needs to be franchised. I was already aware that LCK is going to be franchised, so although the announcement didn’t come as a surprise, I just wish there was more time to prepare for it. When it comes to the business side of things, the franchise model is essential, and if attracting investments becomes more proactive, the system will naturally evolve, and LCK will successfully transition into its second chapter.

 

 

What are some preparations that you have made for the team for the upcoming changes?

 

We’re currently in the process of finding and contacting the right corporations to partner up with. While we do have a partner that we may work with, we're not at the stage of announcing the partnership just yet, and we hope to make that announcement very soon. Even as a CK team, not only did our team pique much positive interest within the community, we’ve also done a lot of aggressive marketing and held many fan meets. I believe that such infrastructures can be highly beneficial for Team Dynamics to get into the LCK. Whether you take our achievements in and outside the game into consideration, I believe that we definitely have a good shot at being accepted.

 

 

Is there anything that you hope to get from Riot Korea in regards to franchising in the LCK?

 

The one thing I’m not particularly thrilled with is the lack of time and information. All applications have to be sent in by June, and the amount of money required to apply for the franchising is not a small amount. If Riot revealed the minimum costs to apply, as well as their plans for how they’ll divide up the revenue among the teams, I believe that the process of attracting new investors would be a lot smoother. I just hope that they release additional information that will aid the teams for the preparation overall. Also, I hope that Riot will be more active and detailed in setting up their academy league.

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