Blizzard’s The Overwatch League has managed to attract a huge following online, where Twitch viewer counts have been astronomical, but you will soon be able to watch the esports action on a very familiar sports channel: ESPN.
Disney — the parent company of ESPN — and Blizzard made the announcement Wednesday, July 11, revealing that in addition to the main ESPN station, The Overwatch League matches will be broadcast on ESPN2, ABC, and Disney XD. The latter channel is no stranger to gaming content, as its Disney XP programming block last summer featured competitive gaming as well as more in-depth programs like The IGN Show.
So, when will you be able to start watching The Overwatch League on television? It actually begins tonight, when the playoffs kick off. The deal also includes the grand finals, the Overwatch World Cup in the fall, and The Overwatch League’s second season.
“Clearly by the way we’re going to be covering it, starting with the playoffs and the finals this year, certainly speaks volumes to our excitement and our enthusiasm overall for esports moving forward,” ESPN Vice President of Digital Media Programming John Lasker said in a statement.
As esports have become more mainstream, there has been less pushback regarding their place alongside more traditional sports on networks such as ESPN. Former ESPN personality Colin Cowherd was among the most vocal opponents, taking issue with Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm being played on ESPN2 back in 2015. His former SportsNation co-host Michelle Beadle had a much different response, becoming enthusiastic about the game despite her initial lack of interest.
The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to host an esports forum in Switzerland later this month to discuss the possibility of video games becoming an Olympic event. They would potentially be added to the Olympics for 2024, but only non-violent video games will be eligible. This means we won’t be seeing any games like Overwatch or Heroes of the Storm. It’s possible virtual sports series such as FIFA or Madden will be on display, instead, but we would love to see someone take home a gold medal for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.