Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Overwatch League comes to ESPN, Disney and ABC

Attendees play Activision Blizzard's Overwatch computer game at the AOC Open esports event in Tokyo Japan on Saturday The Overwatch League will be broadcast on ESPN and ABC
Lora Ball | 12 July, 2018, 08:51

Esports are coming to ESPN. The broadcasts so far have been on Twitch and (the Activision Blizzard-owned) Major League Gaming's mlg.tv, and they've drawn excellent numbers, including a per-minute audience of 408,000 viewers for opening day (above Amazon's Thursday Night Football streaming numbers, albeit with some caveats) and over 10 million unique users across the first week.

The multi-year broadcast deal will include the playoff games, which begin this week, the season one grand finals in New York City, and season two.

A recap show will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN said, as well as live broadcasts and full replays across the other networks.

John Lasker, vice president of digital media programming at ESPN, said they are turning the corner here in terms of their interest and engagement in the esports category.

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Live coverage starts Wednesday with the playoffs on the Disney XD channel. Coverage continues throughout July, concluding with the finals at the end of the month from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

ESPN did not disclose the full terms of the deal.

Blizzard put a lot into the Overwatch League in order to make it a success, and now that it's seen that success, we hope to see more eSports organizations following suit. The buy-in for each of the first 12 franchises - which span the globe from Shanghai to Seoul, Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Boston and London - was $20 million. This comes after the League's first season debuted exclusively on streaming channels such as Twitch. With this deal, new and younger fans who might not be as familiar with the professional aspect of the game now have the capacity to be introduced to the world of esports and Overwatch League. The teams all compete from the Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California, which was the home of the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson for 30 years.

After a couple of years of preparation, Overwatch League began play in January with 12 teams representing different cities in the US, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and China, $20 million franchise fees, and ownership groups involving NFL figures like Robert Kraft and Stan Kroenke, plus Comcast and a Mets' sister company.

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