Overwatch Lands ESPN, Disney, ABC Broadcast deals

Overwatch League landed a major broadcasting deal this week that will test the prime-time viability of esports before national audiences. The deal announced Wednesday is a multi-year agreement with ESPN, Disney, ABC, and streaming services, starting with the OWL Season 1 grand finals this month.

Broadcast live from the Barclays Center in New York, the OWL grand finals are playing out before television audiences starting this week. Next year, the full OWL Season 2 will broadcast to televisions via the ESPN network, ESPN2, Disney XD, and ABC.

The quadruple-network deal encompasses hundreds of hours of live and highlight-reel programming. And everyone watching OWL on Twitch can relax – the deal will not override previous streaming arrangements.

John Lasker, vice president of digital media programming at ESPN, said they have been watching OWL “pretty closely.” Lasker described the new deal as “turning the corner” in the network's interest and engagement in esports. He said their extensive coverage of the upcoming playoffs is evidence of ESPN's excitement about esports moving forward.

Landing a major deal with network television is part of Blizzard's strategy to reach the widest audience possible. The publisher believes television audiences can reach demographics that may only be interested in watching the highest level of professional competition in esports.

This weekend, Disney XC and ESPN3 will air Day 2 and 3 of the OWL Quarterfinals on July 13 and 14, respectively. Next weekend, coverage moves to ESPNews for Day 2 of the Semifinals on July 20, then ESPN2 for Day 3 of the Semifinals. The finals at the end of the month will air across all four networks. 

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