Riot Games announced Wednesday that their League of Legends Championship Series broadcast will undergo changes prior to the upcoming summer split. After introducing Monday Night League during the spring split, the Monday night broadcasts will be moving to Friday nights and branded as Friday Night League for the summer.
Friday night broadcasts will begin at 8:30 p.m. ET with the Riot pre-show analyst desk, hosted by former Monday Night League host Gabriella "LeTigress" Devia-Allen. Games will begin at 9 p.m. ET. The Bud Light Lounge, which aired after Monday Night League this past spring, will move to Sunday nights, following the conclusion of the Sunday afternoon LCS broadcast.
Riot announced the creation of Monday Night League, as well as Academy Rush (an NFL Red Zone-style look at multiple North American Academy League games) and further integration of North American Academy games into the main LCS broadcast for the spring split.
The goal behind Monday Night League, according to LCS commissioner Chris Greeley, was to plant a flag in the ground and establish a brand similar to that of Monday Night Football or a specific traditional sports broadcast.
"Monday night was successful for us in a lot of ways in terms of giving us the space where we could try something that didn't look exactly like the LCS," Greeley said. "I think you're going to see that continue. We've been joking that the Friday Night League branding is just going to be the Monday Night League branding with an 'X' over Monday and Friday written over the top, but I think you'll see a lot of the same elements. We've handed off the ideas to our publishing team and just told them to go crazy."
Unfortunately, the Monday Night League viewership numbers lagged behind those of the standard Saturday and Sunday LCS broadcasts. Greeley cited a few reasons for this: It was a work/school night, it was later for East Coast and European viewers, and the marquee matchups were occurring at the end of that week's competition, rather than at the beginning.
"There were a lot of Mondays where, when we got there, the stories were done," Greeley said. "The games didn't have the same spot in the narrative for the weekend. Friday gives us the chance to kick off the week's narratives."
The Friday Night League spot will also follow Europe's League of Legends European Championship, which Greeley said should help with viewership. The LCS will also rebroadcast Friday Night League games early Saturday morning so European viewers can catch up before the LEC's Saturday games begin.
Evil Geniuses and 100 Thieves will kick off the 2020 LCS summer split on June 12, with a rematch between the third- and fourth-place spring teams. Then spring finalists FlyQuest and Cloud9 will face each other in the headlining match of the night. Greeley said it's important to start the season with a bang, but the league is still trying to spread narratives across all three days of play.
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"If you look at the Saturday schedule, you'll see the Team Liquid-TSM [Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng] homecoming match is scheduled into the weekend and not on a Friday," Greeley said. "When you look through the whole schedule, we certainly didn't front-load Friday nights. We still want Saturday and Sunday to feel impactful and special."
Another ongoing concern was the reaction from players and teams. When Monday Night League began, teams and players expressed fears of burnout, mismatched schedules so players couldn't coordinate their days off from team to team, and an unfair advantage to teams that saw more game footage on their opponents than others, depending on how the three-day schedule panned out. Greeley said the league approached owners and the players' association separately about Friday Night League and their new summer schedule.
"It's still a third day. It's still going to cause some of the same issues -- frustration over streaming schedules and off weeks," Greeley said. "We spent a pretty good part of the later half of spring split analyzing an unbalanced schedule for summer to create a better system. That schedule turned into a real mess and wasn't something we thought would be great competitively. We also spent a lot of time talking to team operation staff. You can't eliminate all of that kind of stuff in a schedule, but we've tried to spread it out so that it was a lot more even."
Additionally, Greeley said that further integrating Academy games alongside the LCS schedule continues to be a priority for summer 2020. Although Academy Rush got off to a rough start in spring, it was well received when changes were made following community feedback. The new summer schedule with Friday Night League still includes Academy Rush, which is now just prior to the start of Friday Night League LCS games.
"I think it's a really interesting way of telling stories, especially in a game like League of Legends, and we've talked about the possibilities that it opens up for us to run bigger tournaments or events in North America, whether they're amateur or pro or something in between as we continue to work through what that format looks like," Greeley said. "I think the last piece of it is providing discoverability for fans that just want to sit and watch the full game rather than watch the red zone flip to flip."
Greeley said they're working on ways to make clicking through to individual team streams easier so fans can watch the full Academy games if they want to.
The new weekly schedule is as follows:
Thursday: Four LCS Academy games
Friday: Academy Rush, followed by Friday Night League (two LCS games)
Saturday: Four LCS games
Sunday: Four LCS games