ESPN is making good on its promise to support esports with the news that it (and Disney) have just signed off on a multi-year deal with Blizzard to broadcast the Overwatch League across its networks, starting with the first matches of the playoffs today.
As IGN reports, they’ll then be moving on to cover this year’s grand finals, capping off the first season of the Overwatch League in style, before moving on to cover the Overwatch World Cup, followed by next year’s full season 2 of Overwatch League.
The coverage will run across ESPN and ESPN2, as well as Disney XD and ABC, not to mention plenty of additional streaming services (including a continued presence on Twitch. All told, it’ll be bringing a metric tonne of live coverage and highlight packages to television for the first time, with a full recap show also coming to ABC too.
The challenge will be to open things up to the average sports viewers, and try to make the chaos that is an Overwatch match as accessible as possible to people who may be interested in esports, but not necessarily familiar with the game.
All told, this is one of the most exciting moments so far in the genesis of esports and its search for a mainstream following, and hopefully it’ll pave the way for other esports titles to appear live across more and more networks.
For now, we’ll just be tuning in to catch the six teams battling it out in the for the chance to be the inaugural Overwatch League champion, including the division leaders New York Excelsior and Los Angeles Valiant, and the four other qualifiers Boston Uprising, LA Gladiators, London Spitfire and Philadelphia Fusion.
Fascinatingly, the ascendant Seoul Dynasty were ranked #1 ahead of the season and started strongly, but eventually slid to eighth after a disastrous end to the season, missing out on the playoffs by two wins. Still, they fared a lot better than cellar-dwellers the Shanghai Dragons, who managed to make it through the entire season without recording a single victory.
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