Overwatch viewership is about to see some explosive growth. This morning ESPN and Blizzard Entertainment revealed that Overwatch League is coming to the ESPN, Disney, and ABC family of networks, starting tonight.
This is an enormous, multi-year deal that will put world-class Overwatch competition in a very bright spotlight, for a very long time. It all kicks off tonight with the Overwatch League Playoffs. Next month's Season 1 Grand Finals will also be broadcast across the networks, as well as the entirety of Season 2. Overwatch League will still be broadcast on Twitch, so don't freak out if that's where you love to watch.
"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 this morning. "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."
Needless to say, this is a huge deal for the hardcore and semi-competitive community, and could be the very thing the esports community as a whole needs to push their love for competitive gaming into the mainstream as we know it. Activision Blizzard believes that the ESPN viewership already boasts a latent esports viewership.
"It's a cross section that's a hardcore sports fan, especially on ESPN channels," Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard esports leagues, said. "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."
Expect this to beget more than just live matches and replays. ESPN revealed that Lasker plans to take full advantage of a "full swath of digital rights" that may lead to supplemental coverage and programming aimed at non-gamers or people unfamiliar with Overwatch.
So what do you think? This could be the biggest news to hit the esports scene in years, and I don't think anyone can say what kind of far-reaching benefits or consequences this may have. Will you be watching tonight's matches on ESPN? Let us know in the comments below!