Overwatch League, a professional esports competition owned by videogame company Activision Blizzard, has signed a multiyear TV deal with Disney’s ABC and ESPN family of networks, the companies announced Wednesday. The agreement begins with a Wednesday night airing of the quarterfinals round of the league’s playoffs on the Disney XD channel, and includes later-round broadcasts on the main ESPN and ABC networks. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
Overwatch League signed a two-year, $90 million streaming deal with Amazon’s Twitch earlier this year, and ESPN has aired esports before, but this long-term deal shows esports’ increasing importance to the traditional pro sports infrastructure. As sports like baseball and Nascar have seen their audience age and ratings decline, sports broadcasters need to find new programming to reach younger viewers. Team owners have increasingly seen esports as a growth area that also has appeal to a cross-section of sports fans. The owners of the New York Mets and Los Angeles Rams also own Overwatch League teams. It’s only natural for one of their biggest broadcasters to follow suit.