ESPN, Disney XD secure broadcast rights for Overwatch League

July 12, 2018 GMT

ESPN, Disney XD secure broadcast rights for Overwatch League

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- ESPN is diving deeper in the esports game. The sports network and parent company Disney have reached a multi-year deal for exclusive television rights to the Overwatch League.

The agreement begins with the Overwatch playoffs, which tipped off Wednesday on Disney XD and ESPN3. Live coverage will continue over the next two weeks through the Grand Finals at the Barclays Center in New York City on July 27-28. Telecasts will be spread over ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN3 and Disney XD with Day 1 of the Finals in primetime on ESPN, a first for an esports broadcast.

The matches will also be available to stream on the ESPN and DisneyNOW apps. A recap show will air July 29 on ABC. 

“The Overwatch League Grand Finals is by far our most comprehensive television distribution for an esports event over a single weekend: 10 total hours over four networks and three days,” Disney executive Justin Connolly said in a release. “This overall collaboration with Disney/ABC, ESPN and Blizzard represents our continued commitment to esports, and we look forward to providing marquee Overwatch League coverage across our television platforms for fans.”

The Grand Finals will put a bow on the Overwatch League’s successful inaugural season. The league is the first global city-based pro esports league in the world with 12 teams across North America, Europe and Asia. Overwatch League’s popularity is expected to rise even higher as franchise fees for next season could reach up to $60 million according to ESPN.

There’s no word yet on how many Overwatch League matches ESPN will air beyond this season, but the deal represents the latest example of the network branching out from traditional sports in an effort to court millennials and cord cutters. In addition to broadcasting esports tournaments in games like Madden, FIFA and Street Fighter V, the network has dabbled in Slamball and Cornhole tournaments too. ESPN also recently struck an exclusive five-year deal with UFC.