Blizzard to Bring Overwatch League to ESPN, ABC, and Disney Channels

Lewis Collier
July 12, 2018

Blizzard Entertainment has signed a multi-year deal with Disney to broadcast the Overwatch League on linear television.

ESPN coverage of the Overwatch League actually begins tonight, with the first round of quarterfinals between the Philadelphia Fusion and the Boston Uprising at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET, followed by the London Spitfire and the Los Angeles Gladiators at 7 pm PT/10 pm ET. On Wednesday morning, ESPN reported that the League will be broadcast on ESPN, Disney, and ABC as well as their corresponding digital platforms.

A recap show will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN said, as well as live broadcasts and full replays across the other networks. Each distribution point represents a different demographic that could be interested in Overwatch esports, from the hardcore sports fans of ESPN to the younger audience of Disney XD. 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.

The announcement continues a wave of growth for the burgeoning esports industry.

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In a report last month, Goldman Sachs Group predicted that esports, as the professional competitions are called, will have 276 million viewers worldwide by 2022, on a par with the National Football League. More and more games are embracing competitive gaming and the formation of esports leagues.

Media partners are another very important partner in [the Overwatch League] ecosystem. The OWL has city-based teams in four countries, including nine USA franchises plus teams in London, Seoul and Shanghai.

Attendees play Activision Blizzard's Overwatch computer game at the AOC Open esports event in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, July 1, 2017. This comes after the League's first season debuted exclusively on streaming channels such as Twitch. With talk of new teams from around the world joining the League starting in Season Two, as well as home city arena's popping up for teams in the next few years, the Overwatch League will soon be even more global than it already is. The new deal with ESPN and Disney will not replace the league's deals with Twitch.

"We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the esports category", ESPN vice president of digital media programming John Lasker said in a statement. "We've had an interest and have been watching pretty closely how the first year of the Overwatch League has been progressing, and we're really excited to be a part of this". ESPN also holds the broadcast rights to popular esports properties such as the North American division of the League of Legends Championship series.

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