Activision-Blizzard have announced a multi-year broadcast deal with the ESPN, beginning with the broadcast of the Overwatch League. The news comes via an official story from EPSN.com, stating that Overwatch is coming to the ESPN, Disney and ABC (American Broadcasting Company). As per the agreement, these broadcast rights don’t exclude existing broadcast services, such as Twitch. The deal began today as the Overwatch League playoffs started, with the Philadelphia Fusion defeating the Boston Uprising 3-1 and the Los Angeles Gladiators defeating the London Spitfire 3-0. The deal will also include the Season 1 finals, from the Barclays Center in New York later this month, and Season 2 next year. The ESPN are promising “amounts to hundreds of hours of live and highlight programming across four networks”.
“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.”
While this isn’t the first time the worlds of eSports and TV have crossed over, nor is it the first time either EPSN or Blizzard have been involved, this is the most significant. This is the first multi-year broadcast deal and looks to target a new audience, as opposed to catering towards those already following the Overwatch or eSports scenes. EPSN are looking to take hold of a new market that would otherwise be unfamiliar with eSports, while Blizzard aims to broaden their viewership. As such, EPSN believes there is a cross-section between eSports fans and their established traditional sport dans due to the intensity of the competition. Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard eSports leagues, states “they love watching competition, they love watching the best in the world compete at a great game… 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.”
At the moment there are no details regarding TV broadcast to Australia. However, with Riot Games and the AFL’s official partnership, a similar eSports broadcast deal is sure to be made domestically.