Overwatch League comes to ESPN, Disney and ABC
Esports have undergone a tremendous transformation in the last few years. They have all but become as popular as traditional sports, but there are a few hurdles that have so far remained unconquered. Esports are still fighting for their inclusion into the Olympics for example, and TV and media representation isn’t where it could be yet.
Luckily for fans and players alike, that is about to change in a major way – the Overwatch League or OWL, one of the most popular esports leagues in the world is about to be far better represented. It was a somewhat unexpected announcement that made quite a lot of people very happy – the OWL is coming to the ESPN, Disney and ABC family of networks.
ESPN was one of the first networks to transmit coverage of competitive gaming, making its reappearance in this announcement all the more pleasant for fans. ESPN, Blizzard Entertainment and Disney announced last Wednesday, that the new OWL season starting this Wednesday would be covered by them.
The OWL received a multi-year broadcast deal that also includes the Overwatch League play-offs. Wednesday night marks their beginning. The Season 1 grand finals will be shown as well. They are taking place in the Barclays Center in New York next month.
The Overwatch World Cup is taking place this fall, and it too will be covered in the new network deal. It even extends to cover the OWL Season 2 next year. As for where it will be broadcast: You’ll be able to watch on the flagship ESPN network, ESPN 2, Disney XD, ABC and even some streaming services from these networks.
All in all, the OWL is going to get hundreds of hours of live and highlight programming across four networks, bringing the OWL to both linear and digital viewers for these channels…for the first time! The new agreement doesn’t affect standing ones, so if you were planning on watching on Twitch or similar services, you can still do that.
“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. “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.”
These new agreements are part of a dedicated Blizzard initiative trying to bring Overwatch competitions to a wider audience. Hardcore sports fans are a prime audience here for example, as they already love watching competitions and tournaments – audiences that aren’t necessarily gamers may still have an interest in the OWL.
Disney, as the parent company of ESPN, is pretty invested in the NBA, and Blizzard are hoping that they may extend their patronage to Overwatch as well – if it does, you should expect to see a lot more of Overwatch on regular TV channels in the future!