With just one day remaining before the Overwatch League is scheduled to kick off, Twitch has announced that it will carry livestreams of all of the league's matches as the "exclusive worldwide third-party provider" in all regions outside of China. The two-year deal will also see the development of rewards and other offerings for fans, including in-game items and OWL "Cheermotes."
"The Overwatch League is making a major impact on esports by reshaping the industry with city-based teams," Twitch COO Kevin Lin said. "Given Overwatch's consistent reign as a top viewed game by our community, we look forward to offering their pioneering style of league play to a large and passionate fanbase that will be able to bond over not only their favorite plays, but hometown pride."
The announcement is long overdue because, as SportsBusiness Daily pointed out, no third-party media deal has previously been revealed. That wasn't an ideal situation for team owners, according to San Francisco Shock owner Andy Miller. "I'll be honest, it would have been easier to get sponsors if we could have said, 'This is our distribution partner' a month ago, but it is what it is," he said.
But the lack of clarity was also a cause for some concern among Overwatch fans, who have been left uncertain as to how they'd be able to watch the matches. With this announcement, that uncertainty is cleared up—and the timing means it will be fresh in everyone's mind when the action begins.
"We wanted to drive significant viewership of the Overwatch League in its inaugural season and beyond," said Armin Zerza, COO of Blizzard Entertainment. "That’s why this historic and ground-breaking partnership is perfectly suited for Activision Blizzard, for Twitch, and—most importantly—for our growing global fanbase."
The first match of the inaugural Overwatch League season will pit the San Francisco Shock against the Los Angeles Valiant at 4 pm PT on January 10. The Shanghai Dragons and the Los Angeles Gladiators will follow at 6 pm, and the Dallas Fuel and Seoul Dynasty at 8 pm. Seasonal play will run until June, and playoffs will begin in July. The full schedule is up at overwatchleague.com.