"Hundreds of hours" of live and highlight programming will be broadcast across the ESPN network, ESPN2, Disney XD, ABC, and streaming services, ESPN said.
After a couple of years of preparation, Overwatch League began play in January with 12 teams representing different cities in the US, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and China, $20 million franchise fees, and ownership groups involving NFL figures like Robert Kraft and Stan Kroenke, plus Comcast and a Mets' sister company.
While the deal focuses on live and full replays of Overwatch competition and recap show on ABC, there is a broad swath of digital rights that the networks "plan to take full advantage of", according to ESPN Vice President of Digital Media Programming John Lasker. "We've had an interest and have been watching pretty closely how the first year of the Overwatch League has been progressing, and we're really excited to be a part of this".
The first day of the finals (Friday, July 27) will air on the main ESPN network at 7 p.m. With this deal, new and younger fans who might not be as familiar with the professional aspect of the game now have the capacity to be introduced to the world of esports and Overwatch League.
"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", Lasker said. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, although it at least will extend into the league's 2019 season as well. "We've seen incredible passion and support from fans during the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, and we're looking forward to capping it off for them with an epic Grand Finals at Barclays Center later this month".
ESPN, and parent company Disney, are no stranger to esports.
Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard esports leagues, takes a moment to highlight the significance of this moment.
Attendees play Activision Blizzard's Overwatch computer game at the AOC Open esports event in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, July 1, 2017. Maybe they even play Overwatch or play it a lot.