Blizzard Entertainment has signed a multi-year broadcast deal with ESPN and Disney to broadcast the Overwatch League on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Disney XD and ABC, along with digital ESPN and Disney channels. The deal includes the Grand Finals for Season 1, taking place on July 27th and 28th at the Barclays Center in New York. It will also see hundreds of hours of both live programming and highlights.
On ESPN.com, ESPN Vice President of Digital Media Programming John Lasker said, “We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the e-sports 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.” What’s interesting is that this deal won’t conflict with Overwatch League’s current agreement with Twitch (the latter having apparently spent $90 million for a two-year deal).
ESPN is no stranger to broadcasting e-sports, with coverage for championships in League of Legends and Dota 2 over the years. For Overwatch League, the networks have a number of digital rights that they “plan to take full advantage of.” Additional content for fans that might be unaware of the game could be included along with highlights.
Overall, the goal is to bring competitive Overwatch to a larger audience. Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard e-sports 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 in 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.”
Overwatch League’s first broadcast on Disney XD and ESPN3 will take place at 8 PM ET as the Philadelphia Fusion faces the Boston Uprising in the first quarterfinals match of the Season 1 playoffs. For the Twitch broadcast of the same, head here.