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Activision Blizzard ‘in talks’ over linear TV deal for Overwatch League

A view of The San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans will face off at the Overwatch League Grand Finals 2019 at Wells Fargo Center on September 29, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment)

US-based interactive entertainment company Activision Blizzard has held talks with NBC Sports Group over the possibility of returning its Overwatch League esports competition to US linear television, it has been reported.

The Overwatch League has previously been shown in the US by sports broadcaster ESPN but the agreement was not renewed after it expired last season.

In January, Activision Blizzard signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership with Google through which the internet company’s video-sharing platform, YouTube acquired exclusive streaming rights to its esports competitions worldwide, excluding China. That deal is said to be worth a total of $160m (€148m) over three years.

Any deal with a linear broadcaster would be unlikely to come anywhere close to the value of the YouTube streaming agreement due to the viewing preferences of the Overwatch League’s core audience.

The Overwatch League is among the competitions covered by the multi-year deal but the Esports Observer website has reported that Activision Blizzard is still exploring the possibility of showcasing one of its prized assets on linear television as well as online.

NBC Sports Group has held talks with Activision Blizzard in recent months over a deal that would showcase Overwatch League matches on regional sports networks across the US, sources familiar with the matter told the Esports Observer. The report added that it is “not clear” if NBC Sports is still negotiating any deal.

It is also claimed that ESPN may consider showing the Overwatch League again in the absence of live sport caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

YouTube replaced social video platform Twitch as the digital rights-holder of Activision Blizzard’s esports competitions.