Why it matters: Competitive gaming has exploded in popularity in recent years and with so much money now tied up in esports, it comes as little surprise that major distribution deals like this are starting to materialize.
Disney and Blizzard Entertainment on Wednesday announced a multi-year broadcast deal that’ll bring coverage of the Overwatch League to the ABC, Disney and ESPN family of networks.
John Lasker, vice president of digital media programming at ESPN, said they are turning the corner here in terms of their interest and engagement in the esports category. Justin Connolly, executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing with Disney and ESPN Media Networks, echoed similar sentiments, highlighting how the deal is by far their most comprehensive television distribution for an esports event over a single weekend (referring to the finals).
Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard esports leagues, feels the deal appeals to a wide audience, and not just hardcore gamers.
“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.”
Financial terms of the partnership, which won’t impact existing distribution deals on platforms like Twitch, were not disclosed.
Live coverage of the Overwatch League playoffs begins tonight at 8 p.m. on Disney XD and ESPN3 as the Boston Uprising take on the Philadelphia Fusion in the first round of the quarterfinals. Coverage continues throughout July, concluding with the finals at the end of the month from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The three-day finale will feature 10 total hours of coverage over four networks. The first team in the finals to win two best-of-five matches will take home the league trophy and the majority of the $1.4 million prize pool.