League of Legions: Moving the NA LCS start time

RiotChopper – League of Legions eSports


  • NA LCS will be starting earlier on Sundays, beginning with February 18 (Week 5)
  • NA LCS Countdown will begin at 11:30 AM PT and champ select for game one will start at noon / 12:00 PM PT

Hi NA LCS fans – I’m Chris “RiotChopper” Hopper and I’m back with another Quick Notes.  If you didn’t catch our first post, this is a NA esports series similar to Meddler’s where we’ll deep dive into topics that the community wants to know more about, discuss work in progress, and share our decision-making process.

Due to your feedback, we’ll be moving up the NA LCS start time to earlier on Sundays starting Week 5. If anyone’s interested in some of the details behind the decision, in this post I’ll be diving into how we decide the NA LCS start time, why we decided to move it up move on Sundays, and what it takes to change the NA LCS start time.

How do we decide our start times?

When we looked at the start time for the NA LCS for Spring 2018, we looked at a couple of factors similar to when we made the format change last year:

  • Fan Behavior
  • Historical Viewership
  • Community Feedback
  • Overlap with other Esports Shows

Looking at these factors suggested a few things:

  • It’s an issue to overlap with EU LCS given the amount of shared audience that watches both NA LCS and EU LCS
  • Having broadcast days start at different times has previously caused a dip in viewership

Ever since the the EU LCS and NA LCS broadcasts were launched in 2013, they have been consciously separated to allow fans of both regions to watch all of the shows. Even with the move to Bo3, the non-overlap was preserved where possible, allowing viewers to at least watch the majority of each regions’ matches live.

With the shift back to Bo1 this year, EU LCS decided to play half of their games on Saturday, which posed a challenge for fans of both broadcasts – if NA LCS continued to start at noon PT on Saturdays, a large group of fans would have to choose between NA LCS and EU LCS, because the latter half of EU LCS would have overlapped with NA LCS. In an attempt to avoid that situation, we decided to push our start time to later in the day. We knew we wanted to cut the potential gap as narrowly as possible to minimize downtime between broadcasts for fans watching both, as well as to prevent the show from running any later than necessary. We also hoped to explore new handoffs from the EU broadcast directly to NA on Saturdays, providing a touchpoint for fans of both leagues. All of these inputs led us to decide on a 2:00 PM PT start time for Saturday.

Having seen experiments in several regions with staggered start times across the week, we knew that it could have detrimental effects on viewership. And given our several years of consistency between Saturday and Sunday start times in NA, we believed it to be important to maintain the same time on both days, even if it was a new time. As such, we decided to move Sunday to 2:00 as well, despite the lack of overlap from the EU broadcast.

So why are we changing the start time on Sunday now?

Despite the fact that we felt good about the decision to start the season with consistent start times, we knew that we would quickly learn whether it was the right decision or not as data rolled in. After reviewing the amount of community feedback from EU and East Coast viewers and the audience data showing viewership fading for the late Sunday games, we decided that it was worth the potential confusion to gain the additional audience that should come with an earlier start time. We noticed that the drop-off in viewership was more pronounced on Sunday than on Saturday; as many community members have mentioned, most fans can stay up later on Saturdays because they don’t have school or work the next day but don’t have the same luxury on Sundays. So, we’ll be starting earlier.

It’s still our desire to not overlap with the EU LCS (and force fans to pick between the two broadcasts), so Saturday start times will remain at 2:00 PM PT.

Why not make the change in Week 4; why wait until Week 5?

Shifting start time of an international broadcast is not as easy as simply flipping a switch and having teams show up earlier. Once we had determined that we wanted to explore an earlier start time, we immediately began discussing broadcast and technical constraints, as well as staffing concerns for production, referees, and on-air talent, not to mention the pros and teams who would be faced with a shorter turnaround.

While the NA LCS broadcast may go off-air around 7:00 PM PT, our staff continues to work, preparing for the next day – graphics, story, script, etc; all need to be constructed between the shows, and cutting two hours out from that time is a significant chunk. We also have vendors and broadcast partners who would be impacted by this change, and we needed to give them more than a few days’ notice to ensure that the first early broadcast would run smoothly. Finally, we wanted to consult with our pro teams who schedule practice, scrims, sponsor visits, and other player commitments weeks in advance. Fortunately, teams were all in support of this decision, and the earlier start time did not pose a problem for any previous commitments. We are also able to pair the earlier start time with the launch of flex scheduling in Week 5, which allows us to ensure that no team will be required to play the last game on Saturday and the first on Sunday.

Is this a pilot? Could Sundays move back to 2:00 PM again?

For the foreseeable future (meaning throughout the 2018 season), NA LCS will start earlier on Sundays with NA LCS Countdown starting at 11:30 AM PT and games starting at noon / 12:00 PM PT.

If it turns out that staggered start times make it too difficult for viewers to consistently tune in, we could certainly revisit our Sat/Sun start times, but it would be predicated on 1.5 splits worth of data demonstrating that the current model isn’t working. In other words, we’re going to commit for a while and then evaluate.

What if ticket holders don’t learn about this change?

We will be emailing all Sunday ticket holders for Week 5 and beyond to ensure awareness of the change. If this change has impacted your plans to attend the NA LCS, please reach out to tickets@riotgames.com and put “NA LCS Time Change” in the subject line.

Don’t forget that starting with Week 5 on Sunday, February 18, NA LCS Countdown will start at 11:30 AM PT and games will begin at 12:00 PM PT. This will continue on for all Sundays moving forward.

If you have any questions or feedback about NA esports, let me know in the comments below or share your thoughts on Twitter or reddit. For more Quick Notes, learn how we select our NA LCS Finals locations.

Watch live video from Riot Games on www.twitch.tv