Word is out that Activision-Blizzard is working on getting Overwatch League on linear TV. The video game company received significant outreach from media networks, especially amid the Coronavirus shutdown, according to sources. Due to the shutdown affecting traditional sports, TV networks are looking for new sources of content and want to consider all possible options, namely esports.
Talking with various networks
The esports league already has an exclusive digital streaming rights deal with YouTube currently valued at around $160 million over three year. Previously, it had a linear TV deal with ABC/ESPN that ended after last season, and no renewal was announced. As a result, no OWL matches have aired on the TV in the United States so far on any channel.
Still, Activision decided to talk with networks in recent months in the hopes of finding a deal. The sports shutdown from the Coronavirus could expedite the return of esports to television. Some sources indiated that NBC Sports Group entered talks over a deal that would see OWL matches appear on NBC-owned RSNs throughout the country. OWL is trying a different approach by basing teams in cities around the world and holding home/away matches similar to traditional sports. As a result, the NBC deal could be a boon for teams in obtaining local media coverage.
Nothing solid so far
Despite everything indicated by sources, a deal has yet to be announced. It’s still not clear if NBC Sports is even still negotiating with the property. ESPN confirmed in late February that its deal with Activision-Blizzard concluded. But ESPN might return to the table due to its lack of live programming currently. The rights fee that ESPN paid to OWL hasn’t been shared, but OWL’s viewership has proven to be heavily influenced on the digital side through media like Twitch and YouTube. Linear rights could be much cheaper than the rights YouTube acquired this season.
With regard to the current season, OWL announced that the rest of the season would take place through online-only matches due to the Coronavirus. This however does not detract from the quality of matches or broadcasting that takes place during each match.