Previously, fans had to tune into Twitch, MLG.com, or the Overwatch League (OWL) website to catch this esports action but now it’ll be easily accessible via ABC, Disney, and ESPN. While we all know cable is on the decline, having Overwatch League on these platforms is what’s going to help get it more mainstream attention. Even within the gaming community, a lot of people don’t follow esports. Right now OWL is a niche within a niche but moves like this are its chance at staying sustainable.
The multi-year broadcast deal includes the Overwatch League playoffs — which begin Wednesday night — the Season 1 grand finals from the Barclays Center in New York next month, the Overwatch World Cup this fall and Overwatch League Season 2 next year. In all, professional Overwatch will be broadcast in some fashion on the flagship ESPN network, ESPN2, Disney XD, ABC and streaming services for the term of the agreement.
Best of all this “agreement does not cancel existing distribution agreements already in place, like Twitch broadcasts.” So there are only positives coming from this situation. When it comes to marketing anything: the more platforms the better. If you want people to access your content you need to make it easy and you need to give them various options and avenues.
ESPN, and parent company Disney, are no stranger to esports. Considering that ESPN is the biggest sports broadcast network it makes sense to get in on the ground floor: while OWL is still in its infancy.
While the deal focuses on live and full replays of Overwatch competition and recap show on ABC, there is a broad swath of digital rights that the networks “plan to take full advantage of,” according to ESPN Vice President of Digital Media Programming John Lasker. That might include highlight packages for ESPN digital platforms or even supplemental content catered toward fans who might not be as familiar with Overwatch.
Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard esports leagues, takes a moment to highlight the significance of this moment. In addition to giving the fanbase more access and, potentially, expanding the audience:
Media partners are another very important partner in [the Overwatch League] ecosystem. ESPN is invested in the growth of the NBA and now we hope they are invested in the growth of our league.
All of this bodes well for Overwatch League which in turn will help in esports and in turn help gamers and games media. While not all of us have the same interests within this hobby/craft, the prosperity of video games (in almost any facet) is a win for all of us.