In a sign that esports and traditional TV are continuing to cozy up, ESPN, Disney XD and Blizzard Entertainment have a new exclusive multiyear deal for live television coverage of the Overwatch League.
The agreement kicked off with Overwatch League playoff coverage on Wednesday, July 11, on both networks, and the 2017–2018 Overwatch League season will wrap up with the Grand Finals live from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on ESPN and Disney XD July 27–28. Subscribers can also livestream games on the ESPN App and DisneyNOW.
In a first for esports and broadcast networks, ABC will air an Overwatch recap show on July 29 on ABC.
Grand Finals play begins Friday, July 27, with the first best-of-five match on ESPN, and continues Saturday, July 28, with the second and potential third series on Disney XD. The broadcast will air alongside the primary digital viewing experience on Twitch, and the Overwatch League also be available via MLG.com.
“The Overwatch League Grand Finals is by far our most comprehensive television distribution for an esports event over a single weekend: 10 total hours over four networks and three days,” said Justin Connolly, executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing for Disney and ESPN Media Networks, in a statement. “This overall collaboration with Disney/ABC, ESPN and Blizzard represents our continued commitment to esports, and we look forward to providing marquee Overwatch League coverage across our television platforms for fans.”
“We’re excited to be working with ESPN and Disney XD to bring Overwatch esports to an even wider audience,” said Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues, in a statement. “We’ve seen incredible passion and support from fans during the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, and we’re looking forward to capping it off for them with an epic Grand Finals at Barclays Center later this month.”
The new deal for Disney Networks and Blizzard comes as some are projecting big audience growth for esports in the U.S. According to new figures from Parks Associates, 10% of U.S. broadband households now watch esports.