Esports on cable television isn’t exactly a new thing, but it isn’t yet commonplace, either. In a stroke of progress in that arena, Blizzard Entertainment announced Wednesday that a multi-year deal has been struck with ESPN, Disney, and ABC to air Overwatch League competitions on their networks. While the deal doesn’t eliminate existing agreements with Twitch, it demonstrates the recognition and commitment from big networks towards esports as a viable and popular competitive arena.
So when does this agreement take effect? As soon as tonight (Wednesday, July 11)! The Season 1 playoffs at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank begin today and will continue until the grand finals at the Barclays Center in New York on July 27-28. Additionally, Overwatch League Season 2 is part of the deal set to air next year. For Season 1, a show highlighting the top moments of the competition will air July 29 on ABC.
The terms of the agreement include broadcasting on ESPN, ESPN2, Disney XD, ABC, and associated streaming services for the duration of the term. This multi-year deal marks the first time Overwatch League has been brought to ESPN, ABC, and Disney viewing audiences. Furthermore, this moment is the first time a live esports competition has aired on ESPN in primetime.
ESPN Vice President of Digital Media Programming John Lasker stated, “We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the esports category.” Enthusiastically, he continued, “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 enthusiasm overall for esports moving forward.”
Overwatch League Playoffs and Grand Finals Broadcast Schedule
All times listed are Eastern Daylight Time as detailed.
- Day 1 of Quarterfinals – Wed, July 11, 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. on Disney XD, ESPN3
- Day 2 of Quarterfinals – Fri, July 13, 8 p.m. on Disney XD, ESPN3
- Day 3 of Quarterfinals – Sat, July 14, 4 p.m. on Disney XD, ESPN3
- Day 1 of Semifinals – Wed, July 18, 8 p.m. & 10 p.m. on Disney XD, ESPN3
- Day 2 of Semifinals – Fri, July 20, 7 p.m. on ESPNEWS
- Day 3 of Semifinals – Sat, July 21, 7 p.m. on EPSN2
- Day 1 of Finals – Fri, July 27, 7 p.m. on ESPN
- Day 2 of Finals – Sat, July 28, 4:30 p.m. on Disney XD, ESPN3
- Day 2 0f Finals – Sat, July 28, 9 p.m. on ESPN2 (re-air)
- Highlights Recap – Sun, July 29, 3 p.m. on ABC, ESPN3
What is the Overwatch League?
The Overwatch League is the first major global esports league with city-based teams from all over the world. Overwatch is the hit online-multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The game features colorful characters with wild abilities that shake up the traditional first-person shooter experience. It quickly became a fan-favorite upon its launch in 2016 and even earned the coveted Game of the Year award.
Professionally-adept players compete all season long to be crowned the Overwatch League champion and snag the $1 million (USD) bonus. Keep in mind, this is a bonus to be won on top of a minimum $50,000 base salary with complete healthcare and retirement benefits for all qualified competitors!
For more on all things Overwatch, be sure to keep a lock on Daily Esports for the latest.