In arguably the most significant rights deal in eSports history, Disney and video game publisher Blizzard Entertainment have signed a multiyear deal to bring the Overwatch League to Disney’s channels, including ESPN, Disney XD and the ABC network.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Overwatch League playoff matches will air live on Disney XD and on ESPN, with the grand finale marking the first time that eSports will air in prime time on ESPN. Matches will also be available to stream through the ESPN app and DisneyNOW.
In addition, a highlight show will air July 29 on ABC, featuring the biggest moments from the season and playoffs.
ESPN has shown eSports before, but the Overwatch League deal marks the most significant time commitment yet. In a statement, Justin Connolly, executive VP of affiliate sales and marketing for Disney and ESPN Media Networks called the deal “by far our most comprehensive television distribution for an eSports event over a single weekend.”
Earlier this year, ESPN signed a deal with another major player in esports, League of Legends, to bring its matches to its ESPN3 streaming service.
Overwatch League, which focuses on the game “Overwatch,” has become one of the biggest esports leagues, with Toyota, Intel, HP and T-Mobile among the brands to have signed on as presenting sponsors.
The league, with 12 teams in cities around the world, has been part of a growing effort by esports players to professionalize and organize, with the ultimate goal of attracting premium sponsorships and more lucrative TV and streaming rights deals.
So far, ESPN is
being joined by TV competitors like TBS as well as streaming services like Amazon’s Twitch in a bid for rights to the matches.