The Overwatch League is one of the most anticipated competitions in esports. Its hype has been built up for well over a year, but a last-minute announcement regarding the streaming platform for its first ever matches is rather odd. The OWL preseason will not be shown on Twitch, but on the Overwatch League website and through MLG’s platform.
Snubbing the biggest broadcaster in esports is strange, especially since Blizzard and Twitch signed an exclusive third-party streaming contract. Interestingly the agreement, announced in June, was supposed to cover more than 20 major Blizzard esports events, but the only Overwatch tournaments mentioned by name were the Overwatch APEX League and Premier Series, which are to be amalgamated into the Overwatch Contenders Series. There was no mention whatsoever about the Overwatch League and the Overwatch World Cup.
Blizzard’s choice could certainly hurt the preseason’s viewership. While many esports fans are willing to watch esports events through YouTube or even Facebook, it is doubtful if they will switch over for a competition that has not yet proved itself. Overwatch is gaining popularity on Twitch, especially after the introduction of in-game team uniforms–the Overwatch World Cup generated 2.7 million total hours of viewership on Twitch, more than the League of Legends World Championships finals.
Choosing MLG, however, should not come as a surprise. Blizzard is a majority owner of Major League Gaming, and Bobby Kotick, Activision Blizzard’s CEO, once expressed his goal to evolve MLG.tv into “esports’ ESPN.”
Rather than a formal announcement, the OWL website only briefly mentions that the preseason games will be streamed exclusively through MLG. There is also no clarification as to whether the main tournament will be streamed the same way, or if Twitch will ultimately be involved.