Blizzard Entertainment has been partnering with a lot of big companies in order to bring the Overwatch League to life. The game gained tons of popularity back when it released in 2016 for home consoles and PC, and Blizzard decided to transform some of that built-in popularity into an eSports division for the game and call it the Overwatch League. The experiment got underway at the start of this year via livestreams, but now Blizzard has taken things to the next level by broadcasting the League's playoffs on broadcast television starting tonight.
According to a news post on ESPN, you'll be able to watch the League playoffs on the ESPN, ABC and Disney family of channels such as Disney XD and ESPN 2. This is part of a multi-year broadcast deal that Blizzard signed with Disney for the Overwatch League, which includes the broadcasts of the playoffs.
The first season's grand finals will be broadcast from the Barclays Center in New York as the playoffs wrap up, and Blizzard has managed to strike a deal with the broadcasters to show the Overwatch League's second season finals, also set to take place at the Barclays Center.
According to the article, the full matches won't be on all four channels, but certain channels will host highlight reels from the matches, while others might display key replays to catch viewers up on the action.
There is also the possibility of vignette packages being made available on the ESPN digital platforms so that people who don't regularly watch eSports or Overwatch will be able to gather some sense of context of what's going on and why matches are structured the way that they are.
I imagine a lot of people who aren't interested or don't know much about first-person shooters could easily get confused watching an Overwatch eSports match for the first time, so this is why there are highlight programs being put together to help explain the gameplay mechanics and match rules. This is also a good way to get viewers familiar with some of the key members of various OWL teams, not unlike the way major broadcasting stations do vignettes for certain players during the NBA Playoffs or leading up to the Super Bowl for the NFL.
The events will be available starting tonight on July 11th and they will be broadcast across a selection of channels, including Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ESPNews, and ABC up until July 29th. This will cover the quarterfinals up through to the grand finals, and then a post-recap featuring highlights from the event.
ESPN is no stranger to broadcasting eSports events, as EVO's Top 8 finals for Street Fighter V have made it to the cable station the last couple of years. The company seems to be expanding, though, branching into other games that also have a solid foundation in the eSports market.