Blizzard Entertainment and Disney announced today that Overwatch League competition will be broadcast on ABC networks, ESPN and Disney XD in a multi-year agreement starting today.
The Overwatch League finals will air during prime time on ESPN and Disney XD July 27-28, with a highlights show to appear on ABC July 29. (Blizzard’s multiyear agreement with Twitch for online streaming will continue, though coverage will appear on ESPN and Disney apps.) It’s an indication of esports’ increasing household-name status, but it’s also the latest opportunity for gaming companies to demonstrate that it belongs there.
Esports business analysts The Next Level put together a nice infographic on this a year ago, demonstrating that while esports could draw whopping audiences online, that doesn’t always translate to eyeballs on traditional television.
There are good reasons for that, of course. The Overwatch League handily beat out NFL football gameplay online earlier this year, because that’s where its core audience resides. But on television, the NFL routinely sacks esports offerings. Traditional TV skews much older than online viewership, and esports viewers tend to be on the younger side, firmly centered in the 18-49 demo.
Still, with esports on track to become a $905 million business this year and its audience gradually aging, the idea that video game competitions will become routine primetime fare seems inevitable. The Overwatch League deal with the Mouse House networks is the latest step in that progression.