The Korea Herald


[Herald interview] From baseball to LCK, Yi Mino’s production story

By Lim Jang-won

Published : June 9, 2020 - 15:14

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Yi Mino, executive producer of esports at Riot Games, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters in Seoul, on Monday. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald) Yi Mino, executive producer of esports at Riot Games, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald at the headquarters in Seoul, on Monday. (Park Hyun-koo / The Korea Herald)

When Yi Mino came to Riot Games three years ago as the executive producer for esports broadcasts, he was without a broadcast team and the LoL Park Arena in Jongno, central Seoul, had yet to finish construction.

With the opening of LoL Park Arena, Riot Games wanted to start self-production of League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), like other regions in the globe. Yi, who worked at terrestrial broadcaster MBC producing sports programs for 12 years and drama series for three years, was the man Riot Games was looking for to make it happen. Yi took the offer, feeling his long experience in production and his interest in gaming could make for a great fit.

“For the first year I was alone and had to assemble the production team. I was more of a technical supervisor than a producer as the arena was being set up. It wasn’t easy but it was a good experience,” said Yi. “Also, I watched a lot of LoL Championship Series in the beginning for reference,” he said, referring to the similar North American league.

Many MBC producers who liked gaming monitored OGN, a cable channel that focuses on games, and that is what led to his interest in game producing, Yi recalled.

“My friend was a producer at OGN, and I even worked part time there. I watched almost all of OGN’s programs and always thought they were superb. Their computer graphics were great while production and storytelling were stellar,” Yi said. “I still watch OGN sometimes.”

While Yi thinks that production for traditional sports and esports is largely similar, he feels the biggest difference is the nature of the audience.

“In traditional sports, just because I watch a triathlon doesn’t mean I do it. In esports, the audience members are mostly players,” said Yi. “Other producers of games say in interviews that using easier subtitles to make the game easier to understand to attract a larger audience is needed. I think that is closer to being a wrong answer. Many viewers of esports have a good understanding of the game so greater depth and direction in the production are needed.”

That Riot Games has the entire intellectual property for LoL was one of the biggest reasons for Yi’s jump to esports production.

“We are ESPN, NBA and basketball itself since we are Riot Games, LoL and LoL production. I think having all three allows for quick and efficient decision-making and we have access to limitless resources. We can develop things that we need, and we can use the raw data,” said Yi.

With the data, Yi hopes the LCK will be the first to implement artificial intelligence like AlphaGo to LoL matches in the future, showing an analyzed win percentage of teams similar to how Go is broadcast.

Many fans criticized Riot Games for the lack of quality when it took over LCK production from OGN starting with the 2019 Spring Split. However, Yi responded quickly with changes to design and fast-paced production for 2020. In addition, he managed to host the LCK online this spring amid the spread of COVID-19, reaching the highest number of viewers for a season with 4.6 million viewers on average per day.

Looking ahead, Yi expressed his determination for 2020 LCK Summer starting on June 17.

“We have fewer people in the broadcast team than other leagues, but I think the quality of our broadcasts is better. Our wish is that LCK returns to being the best league, but even before that happens, I hope we at least hear that our broadcast is the best,” he said.

By Lim Jang-won (