The Overwatch League is one of the most popular and most watched esports leagues in the world – as a matter of fact, it’s popularity has only been increasing since its first season. If you need proof of that, just look at the latest match in July – the championships not only filled a stadium but were even broadcast on several popular TV channels within the Disney network in the US.
For next season, some new teams are also joining the fray – with the addition of Chengdu, Hangzhou, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington DC and of course Paris, the League just expanded to include a total of 20 teams for the 2019 season.
“Having been in the traditional sport space, it certainly catches your eye when anything is as explosive, fast-moving, and exciting as this,” said Drew McCourt, whose company DM Esports owns the rights to the Paris team. “It has massive potential. There is huge latent demand for this in a turbo-charged demographic that feels this in an incredibly emotional way.”
Drew McCourt is the president of McCourt Global, an investment firm normally specialising in things like real estate and traditional finance as well as media – Drew’s father, chairman Frank McCourt purchased a French football club (Olympique de Marseille) some years ago and also used to own the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. This is the first time the company has invested in an esports team, but it’s an understandable move.
The prime audiences for traditional sports are slowly ageing and newer generations don’t have the same interest older ones did, leading to declining viewership numbers for all sorts of sports events, including even the Olympics. Esports, on the other hand, boast rising viewership numbers in precisely the generations that have less interest in traditional sports.
Because of this, it’s not unusual to see sports teams partner with or create esports teams as well – the combination really does work in their favour. The Overwatch League in the meantime has the kind of varied fan-base that traditional sports used to have. Fans spent more than 160 million hours watching Overwatch players compete since January – consecutively, that would be some 18 thousand years!
With the addition of the new teams, Overwatch extends its appeal even further – at the moment, ‘only’ three continents are represented in the League, leaving plenty of potential to diversify even further sometime down the line. While the exact timeline isn’t quite so certain yet, it’s Blizzard’s plan to expand to 28 teams with regular matches across the globe – for example, you may see Paris dueling Beijing or Los Angeles dueling Chengdu.
The city-based structure that Blizzard is setting up is loosely modeled after traditional sports leagues – that system has proven to be effective over time, so it’s not a bad strategy to match the OWL to it as well – once it reaches the scale that Blizzard is aiming for, only time will tell how sustainable the Overwatch League is – for now, it’s great fun to watch it though!