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Who watches the LCK?

LCK logo (Riot Games)
LCK logo (Riot Games)

League of Legends as an esport is slowly but surely gaining popularity among various demographics, judging by the demographics of LoL Champions Korea fans.

As one of the most popular esports leagues, the LCK is seen by fans around the world, with over half the viewers watching from abroad. According to the game’s maker Riot Games, the average number of viewers for the 2020 LCK summer season was around 166,000, which was up 74 percent from a year prior. The Korea Creative Content Agency survey on esports fans in 2020 also showed that 59.8 percent of Korean esports fans watched LoL, the highest out of all esports watched in Korea.
Fans attend the 2020 LoL World Championships. (Riot Games)
Fans attend the 2020 LoL World Championships. (Riot Games)

The online survey conducted by Riot Games Korea involved 1,000 people from ages 14 to 49 who have watched at least one LCK game, to find out specifically about the LCK audience.

The average age of people who play LoL was 23, with around 80 percent of the entire player base for LoL being 30 or younger, according to Riot Games. Contrary to the perception that students make up the bulk of esports watchers, however, the survey showed that 56.7 percent of LCK fans had a job and only 35.9 percent were students, while 5.7 percent were unemployed and looking for a job.

The survey also showed that LCK continues to grow new fans, with 32.7 percent of respondents saying they started watching LoL esports within the last three years. In addition, 46 percent of female viewers, 53.5 percent of viewers in their teens and 44 percent of viewers in their 40s responded that they started watching the LCK within the last three years, attesting to its growing popularity across multiple demographics as the LCK goes into its 10th year.

When asked how they initially gained interest in LoL as an esport, 74.7 percent responded that they were recommended by friends or acquaintances, while 36.3 percent credited YouTube recommending related videos and 28.3 percent said they watched to raise their own LoL gaming skills.

YouTube recommendations especially had a high impact on those who had no experience playing LoL, with 49.2 percent of non-LoL players citing the video-sharing platform as leading them to watch LoL esports.

The number of esports fans who do not play the game has been increasing throughout the esports scene. The KOCCA esports fan survey showed that 24.8 percent of the people watching esports in 2020 did not play the games at all, a significant increase from 10.2 percent recorded in 2018.

The Riot Games survey also showed that 88.9 percent of fans who watched the LCK last year watched the games live, while 93.4 percent watched game highlights and 77.5 percent waited for replays. According to the 2019 Study on Pro Sports Audience by Korea Professional Sports Association, 90.5 percent of fans watched games live, while 89.8 percent of fans watched highlight videos.

One of the goals of Riot Games is to make LoL an esport that can be enjoyed across generations, like traditional sports. By implementing a franchise system this year in the LCK, Riot Games abolished the relegation of teams, making it possible for fans to support a team without the fear of them disappearing. With 92.8 percent of the respondents already responding that they have a team they are rooting for in 2020, the number of fans loyal to specific teams is expected to rise.

Meanwhile, the 2021 LCK spring regular season will finish March 28, with the playoffs starting March 31 for the top six teams. The spring finals last year between T1 and Gen.G had over 1 million concurrent viewers.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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