Esports enters the mainstream as Overwatch League makes the jump to television

Fans gather outside the Barclays Centre Friday before the kickoff of the inaugural grand finals of the Overwatch League. Patrick Dodson / Blizzard Entertainment Photo

The Overwatch League grand finals are in full swing as the London Spitfire take on the Philadelphia Fusion at the Barclays Center. The best of three matches began Friday and will continue until the champion for the league’s inaugural season is crowned Saturday night.

The games will be broadcast on ESPN and Disney XD after Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind the popular game, and Disney penned a deal to broadcast the games on its network of channels.

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On July 29 a recap show about the season will be broadcast on ABC in prime time. This represents the first time the championship of an esports tournament will be shown in prime time on a major broadcast television.

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Jon Spector, Overwatch League’s director of franchises and competition, says the goal with the deal was to expand the OWL audience even further.

“We’ve always wanted our content to be as accessible as possible to fans,” said Spector. “So I’m really excited about that but I think it mirrors our core strategy of making the content as widely accessible for fans. However they want to consume it, we want Overwatch League to be there.”

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Over 200 matches were played with teams and players hailing from all around the world. The two teams in the finals host an identical record of 24 wins and 16 losses. Philadelphia struggled a bit in the beginning as a portion of their roster was missing from the competition due to issues with work visas. London have been a heavy favourite since the beginning.

The Overwatch League will also be expanding its roster after the company announced it will be adding teams from Paris and Guangzhou.

London defeated Philadelphia in the first match with a score of 3 – 1. The competition continues Saturday at 4 p.m. The team that wins the competition will receive $1 million. The total prize pool over the whole first season totaled $3.5 million.


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