Blizzard has recently finalized a broadcast deal with Disney Entertainment which will bring the Overwatch League to Disney’s family of channels including ESPN, ABC and Disney XD. The media deal is not exclusive meaning fans can still watch all the games on streaming platforms like Twitch, and now on ESPN’s YouTube channel.
The deal will begin with the OWL playoffs which begin Wednesday, July 11th and include the grand finals at the end of the month live from the Barclays Center in New York.
John Lasker, Vice President of Digital Media Programming for ESPN said: “We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the esports category. 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. Clearly by the way we’re going to be covering it starting with the playoffs and the finals this year certainly speaks volumes to our excitement and our enthusiasm overall for esports moving forward.”
The deal may also include more than just live broadcasting of the OWL matches. ABC will also air a recap show and Lasker hints at the potential for demographic focused packages such as those geared towards fans that may be unfamiliar with Overwatch.
Pete Vlastelica, President and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues said: “It’s a cross-section that’s a hardcore sports fan, especially on ESPN channels. They love watching competition, they love watching the best in the world compete at a great game. Maybe they have played video games. Maybe they know of Overwatch. Maybe they even play Overwatch or play it a lot. But they’re fundamentally looking to be entertained by the highest possible level of competition around a great game. And that’s what we’ve got.”
Disney has shown a great amount of interest in esports in the past years especially in partnership with Blizzard such as broadcasting the Heroes of the Dorm collegiate competition on ESPN and the Overwatch League Contenders Series on Disney XD.
Esports Insider says: As much of an investment that Disney has put into esports, in general, this may be a huge deal but really comes as no surprise. One area that has lacked with mainstream esports broadcasts is introducing and explaining to new viewers the competitive nature of the specific game. As this is a multi-year broadcast deal we hope to see Disney and Blizzard approach that issue in a way that can be beneficial to all.