Activision in multi-year deal with ESPN, Disney XD for live Overwatch league games

(Reuters) - Activision Blizzard Inc signed a multi-year agreement with ESPN and Disney XD on Wednesday for live coverage of its Overwatch e-sports videogame league, as rising popularity of the medium attracts more viewers.

In January, Activision launched the professional e-sports league around its popular first-person shooter videogame, which has over 40 million players worldwide.

The league’s “Grand Finals”, which will be telecast on ESPN, marks the first time live competitive gaming will air on the network in prime time, and will be the first broadcast of an e-sports championship on ABC, said the companies.

“This overall collaboration with Disney/ABC, ESPN and Blizzard represents our continued commitment to e-sports,” said Justin Connolly, executive vice president, affiliate sales and marketing of Disney and ESPN Media Networks.

Earlier this year, Activision announced a two-year deal to broadcast the first two seasons of the league on’s Twitch.

E-sports refers to events ranging from virtual warfare games to computer-simulated soccer matches that are often played for big prize money in tournaments.

About 427 million people are expected to watch video gaming worldwide in 2019, according to market research firm Newzoo.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr