Esports-IBM inks first-ever esports deal with OWL

(Reuters) - International Business Machines Corp IBM.N will make its bow in the esports industry after signing a multi-year deal with the Overwatch League, the world's first global esports league with city-based teams across Asia, Europe, and North America.

The sponsorship component of the deal kicks off at this year’s Overwatch League Grand Finals, which runs from Oct. 8-10, and covers the 2021 and 2022 Overwatch League seasons.

As part of the agreement, IBM and the Overwatch League will work towards developing solutions to improve the league’s rankings system, and create live and in-broadcast predictive analysis.

“We’re constantly striving to give fans the ability to more meaningfully engage with the Overwatch League, and teaming up with IBM enables us to do just that,” said Brandon Snow, Chief Revenue Officer of Activision Blizzard Esports.

“IBM’s cutting-edge AI and machine learning, underpinned by cloud technologies, will help enable us to bring interactive and innovative engagement opportunities to our fans and teams.”

This is IBM’s first foray into the world of esports, but the 109-year-old company has been a part of gaming history as a hardware manufacturer, chip creator, and software provider since 1985.

IBM has also served as a partner to a number of sports organizations, teams, and events, including the U.S. Open and Wimbledon tennis Grand Slams and the Masters, one of four major championships in professional golf.

“The solutions we’re partnering to create can help the organizations, players, and fans enjoy an even more immersive, engaging experience,” said Noah Syken, IBM’s Vice President of Sports & Entertainment Partnerships.

“We look forward to working with the Overwatch League, to bring innovative solutions at scale, to broad and relevant audiences.”

Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore