Just hours before Call of Duty League's season opener on Friday afternoon, Ryan Watts, the Global Head of Gaming at Youtube, announced exclusive streaming rights for all Activision Blizzard esports, including Overwatch League, Hearthstone, and the new Call of Duty League in a multi-year deal.
Previously, Activision Blizzard was signed to a two year deal with Twitch, but exclusive deals from other streaming platforms have become more prevalent in the last year. Ninja moved over to Mixxer in Summer 2019, and Facebook Gaming signed a bunch of streamers in the following months to close out the year.
This is the first time a live esports broadcast left Twitch for exclusivity elsewhere, however. And more than just Twitch, of course, that discludes Mixxer, Facebook Gaming, Caffeine, etc. Instead, Overwatch League will now exclusively live here, and Call of Duty League will live here. After the news, expect more platforms to look into exclusivity rights for other esports.
This is particularly interesting news after a rough beginning of the year for Overwatch League, with many of their broadcast team departing ahead of their big homestand adventure this year. Call of Duty has had a rough debut as well, starting their official Challengers event (amateur league organized by Activision Blizzard) in a parking garage in 33 degree Minnesota weather.
Depending on the details in the contract, the deal could be signs of new life for the two major leagues, or it could be just yet another way they are further hamstrung. Esports fans will hope for the former, and time will tell how the deal impacts the league this year.
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