Gaming

‘Overwatch League’ Shows Networks the Power of eSports

These ratings aren't playing games

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This past weekend was the “Overwatch League Grand Finals” and fans from all over the globe streamed the final moments between the London Spitfire and the Philadelphia Fusion. It was a pretty significant event, not just for fans of the game, but for the future of eSports.

The Overwatch League is the world’s first global professional city-based eSports league and the Grand Finals were held in our backyard at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. In front of a sold-out live audience, the London Spitfire became the first Overwatch League champions, earning a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Fusion. The two-day event was streamed worldwide via Twitch, as well as on MLG; China’s ZhanQi TV, NetEase CC, and Panda TV. There was even a broadcast to domestic audiences on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and Disney XD. Fans could also catch a highlights show on ABC that Sunday. Hitting the Disney networks was a huge win for eSports and the ESPN broadcast was the first time live competitive gaming had aired on ESPN’s flagship network in primetime. The ABC program was the first eSports championship ever shown on that network, bringing eSports to million of viewers, some for the very first time.

Inclusive of these TV networks and streaming platforms, the estimated global average-minute-audience across both days of the Grand Finals was over 861K. The U.S. average-minute-audience was over 289K, with an estimated 45% of that total (129k) falling into the 18–34 demographic. That 18-34 demo is one of the most coveted demographics in the entirety of ratings, and its testament to the draw of eSports. Worldwide, the 18–34 average-minute-audience was over 605K. Those are amazing numbers for any event to grab on its debut. The stats will make selling an eSports event on other networks much easier for future competitions. With more advertisers onboard in the future, there could be bigger prize-pools, larger leagues, and more special-events. The rise of eSports will also make it easier for developers to get their games published, and marketers could start working directly with developers to fund future games and events.

“I can’t put into words how proud I am of this team,” said London Spitfire owner and CEO Jack Etienne. “The players, the coaches, Robin Lee, Susie Kim—all of them have shown such resilience to bring us to this triumph. A lot of people wrote us off, but no one on this roster and staff stopped working on getting better and they’ve shown that with this phenomenal playoff run. Thank you to our fans that never gave up and supported us, sometimes watching in the middle of the night. The support we’ve had has been overwhelming and we’re thrilled to have rewarded that support. Thank you to Bobby Kotick, Nate Nanzer, Pete Vlastelica, Mike Morhaime, Jeff Kaplan, and everyone on the Overwatch League team for putting together such an incredible inaugural season. I know none of us will ever forget it. Aces High!”

The regular season may have ended, but the Overwatch League will return to the Blizzard Arena on August 25–26 for the action-packed All-Star Weekend. Saturday will feature a series of custom skill matches, while Sunday will see the Atlantic and Pacific All-Stars go head-to-head in the official All-Star Game Powered by Intel. The 2019 Overwatch League schedule will be announced at a later date.

“Having cross-platform success, especially among the coveted 18–34 demographic, showcases the Overwatch League’s strong fanbase. Marketers seeking to capitalize on the growth of esports among the mainstream population should take note of the league’s multi-platform approach to broadening reach,” said Nicole Pike, managing director of Nielsen Esports.

“Overwatch League started as one of the most ambitious projects in esports history,” said Twitch cofounder Kevin Lin. “We worked together with Blizzard on many new innovative experiences, including a Cheering rewards program, the All-Access Pass, exclusive Twitch chat emotes, a feature-packed interactive Extensions overlay, and more. Seeing our efforts draw an impressive and passionate audience on Twitch for the Grand Finals reflects a promising future for the league.”

“Congratulations to the London Spitfire, who had an unforgettable season and championship run,” said Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues. “We had a number of ambitious goals for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, and all of these came together during the Grand Finals at Barclays Center: we showcased the pinnacle of esports competition, we created value for our partners, and we reached millions of fans. I can’t think of a better position to be in as we look ahead to the 2019 season of the Overwatch League.”